October 15, 2015

Skorton Center for Health Initiatives Plans Bystander Video

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The Skorton Center for Health Initiatives at Gannett Health Services plans to partner with Cornell Interactive Theater Ensemble to create a comprehensive bystander intervention video, hoping to empower Cornellians to intervene in cases of drug abuse, intimate partner violence, sexual assault and other potentially dangerous situations.

The center expects to take about a year to produce the video, and hopes to present the final project next August, according to Health Initiatives Coordinator Laura Beth Santacrose ’11. The idea for the project was originally sparked by American University’s “Step Up” video, which shows students how to address a wide breadth of daunting situations, according to Santacrose.

“For years, staff in our department have been exploring the idea of such an effort,” she said. “We have even worked with various communications and marketing classes at Cornell to explore ideas for implementation.”

Right now, the center is in the process of reaching out to community members to get input on what content would be most helpful. They will conduct focus groups through Oct. 22, then work to determine ways the video can enhance current campus movements to mitigate drug and alcohol abuse, sexual violence, mental health problems and hazing.

“We seek students from all over campus representing different degrees, academic departments, and involvement in various clubs, teams and other student organizations,” Santacrose said.

Santacrose said she thinks the video will serve as an important contribution to campus conversations on these issues because multimedia presentations can give viewers a thorough perspective on the issue and can also be easily shared on the web and on social media.

“Back in 1987, Cornell was the first university in the nation to use video as a platform for communicating key information about sexual violence on college campuses,” she said. “Videos are a helpful component in health education, as they present mini stories that can engage both the mind and emotions of the viewers.”

While the center is not yet sure exactly how they will distribute the video, they hope it will serve as a valuable addition to existing trainings and presentations on these issues, and will also be disseminated to the broader community.

“We already know … many of the factors that prevent someone from stepping in and helping out,” Santacrose said. “They may have faulty beliefs about the campus norm of stepping up and intervening. They may not know what to do or what to say. The goal of the video is to empower students with the information, resources, and clear steps necessary to make a difference. In short, we want everyone to know how to See. Think. Act.”

Gabriella Lee contributed reporting to this story.