Health Promotion and Health Behavior Ph.D. candidate Coral Cotto-Negrón knows that Beavers Give a Dam. The sexual violence prevention program is the focus of her dissertation research with Assistant Professor Jessica Gorman.
It’s also the brainchild of Associate Director of Prevention and Wellness (PAW) at Oregon State’s Student Health Services, Michelle Bangen, who created Beavers Give a Dam as a way to train bystanders on how to intervene if they witness an actual or potential sexually violent situation.
Coral came to the College of Public Health and Human Sciences to study prevention programs targeting youth. When it came time to choose a dissertation topic, she had already been working with Michelle and her team as they were developing Beavers Give a Dam. As the program neared completion, Coral saw an opportunity to research its implementation and impact. She pitched her idea to the director of Oregon State’s prevention and wellness team and got the green light to make it her topic.
Beavers Give a Dam addresses all types of sexual violence – including sexual harassment, verbal advancement and assault. It’s an interactive bystander training program that makes the community part of the solution. PAW offers the workshops to students on an ongoing basis, and they are customizable for different communities. The end goal is to increase motivation and confidence in bystanders so that they feel comfortable intervening.
In its first two years, the program has trained nearly 5,000 students, and approximately 80 peer facilitators have been trained to deliver the program with PAW staff.
“Preliminary findings show significant increases in participant knowledge and decreases in a few key rape myth acceptance items,” Michelle said in a press release. “And perhaps more importantly, 91 percent of participants think they can personally help prevent sexual violence, and 94 percent feel confident in performing bystander intervention.”
These encouraging statistics have earned the program – now in its third year – national recognition.
In late January, the NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education announced that the program was its NASPA Excellence Award Gold Winner for Violence Education and Prevention, Crisis Management, Campus Security and Related Excellence. The program is also now contending for the organization’s overall Grand Award.
“I’m very excited that the NASPA Excellence Award recognized Beavers Give a Dam and Michelle’s work,” Coral says. “It’s imperative that students continue to demand the university have sexual violence prevention and advocacy programs that are continuously improved and evaluated. Bystander intervention is a promising approach to violence prevention, and we hope this program has an impact on reducing sexual violence.”