Women's Empowerment Alliance at Cincinnati State workshop addresses protection from campus assaults

CINCINNATI -- A college campus can be a number of things for a student -- a place to learn, to socialize or to have fun. But for some students, being assaulted is also a dangerous possibility.

An October workshop hopes to help students be aware of the dangers and how to protect themselves in the event it happens to them.

The Women’s Empowerment Alliance of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College is hosting the two-part workshop series called “You Are Stronger Than You Think” on Oct. 5 and Oct. 12 at the college’s main campus on Central Parkway.

“I don’t believe there’s a campus or student body who could not benefit from learning how to protect themselves or others,” said Jessica Mandich, a student member of the Women’s Empowerment Alliance (WEACS).

Mandich is a Dean’s List student in her final semester at Cincinnati State, graduating with an Associate of Arts and transferring to a four-year university to receive her social work licensure.

“I am a survivor of sexual abuse, so I believe greatly in the education of men and women to help them protect themselves,” she said.

The first workshop centers on consent, and topics will include what consent is, the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships and sexual assault. This is free and open to the public and will be led by Kendra Massey, the education coordinator for local nonprofit Women Helping Women.

The second workshop is for students only and will be taught by Cincinnati State’s newly named president, Dr. Monica Posey, and psychology instructor Dr. Julian Young.

Consent on college campuses has become a prominent issue. What is necessary to constitute consent -- the agreement of one party to another party’s request or suggestion -- and when consent can be accurately given and received have become prominent aspects of the broader student experience.

“Public awareness and education around understanding what consent means is important to our college community,” said Neisha Wiley, creator, founder and chair of the Women’s Empowerment Alliance of Cincinnati State.

“It is not only important for women to understand what consent means and how to guard their consent and use discretion when they give their consent, it is just as important for men to understand what consent means and how to apply it to different situations in dating, intimate partner relationships, and in the development of boundaries.”

Jayne Dressing, fellow faculty advisor and cooperative education and internship coordinator, agrees.

“We think this is only something we need to talk to young women about or ‘prepare them’ for the ‘nature’ of men, but I think we’re missing an opportunity to teach men about boundaries and respect,” Dressing said. “I also think that we have a culture of rape in our society that shows very little representation of what real consent looks like.”

Created in 2012, WEACS originated as a sister organization to Cincinnati State’s Black Male Initiative, with a role for faculty, staff and students to collaborate on leadership and learning opportunities, Dressing said.

With an advisory board of 12 members, a student leadership team of approximately 10 and more than 200 women who participate in the organization, WEACS is gaining traction on campus. 

The group’s theme this year is "Building Stronger Minds, Stronger Bodies, Stronger Women."

“We want to continue to raise awareness and provide learning opportunities for students in a variety of areas that still impact women’s lives: sexual assault, stalking, professional development, assertiveness, leadership, the objectification of women in marketing and so on,” Dressing said. “We want to educate men and women about the role of feminism in creating more equal opportunities for women.”

There are benefits for everyone in both the hosting and attending of WEACS workshops, Mandich said.

“Oftentimes, people in general lack the self-assurance to achieve these traits alone,” she said, “so we hope to invoke the inspiration needed by letting others know, ‘You are stronger than you think.’ This opens the opportunity for them to come out and join us and eventually begin believing in themselves.”

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