College to Pilot Date Rape Program in Fall

The College next fall will offer incoming freshmen educational workshops on the issues and problems of acquaintance rape and bring an expert on the topic to Harvard to train peer counselors.

The pilot program, conducted by students, marks the first time the University has attempted to provide preventive measures for the problems of acquaintance rape, said Ellen Porter Honnet, assistant dean of the College, who is responsible for handling sexual and peer harassment complaints.

"We've done better with trying to help people who have had the experience," said Porter Honnet, who sat on the committee that has been formulating the proposal. "Now we realize that's not enough because we are working on the issue of prevention."

Last month, in a move unrelated to the College's pilot program, two juniors gathered the signatures of 1000 students advocating the establishment of counseling program on date rape for freshman.

The students said they began their drive after Dean of Freshman Henry C. Moses refused to grant their proposal because he did not want to give all other peer counselors time slots during freshman week.

One of the juniors circulating the petition. Charlotte A. Ellertson '87, who co-directs Harvard's peer counseling group Response, said that when she began the petition drive, the College's committee "hadn't done anything tangible."

College's committee "hadn't done anything tangible."

Ellertson also said her organization was willing to accommodate Moses' complaints by allowing all peer counseling groups to participate in the acquaintance rape program.

Cornell Professor of Human Sexuality Andrea Parrot, an expert on date rape, will come to Harvard in the fall for two days to train students on how to lead the workshops and freshman proctors on how to handle acquaintance rape cases, Porter Honnet said.

In addition, the College will show two sets of videos on date rape to freshmen and upperclassmen: a group of vignettes that Swarthmore College shows to all its students and a longer movie called "Rethinking Rape."

Two students, a man and a woman, will lead the workshops. "The key thing is to have people understand the issue is not just a woman's problem," Porter Honnet said.

Although there are no formal statistics on date rape at Harvard, Porter Honnet said that "there certainly have been some cases--We'd really be burying our heads in the sands if we said it couldn't happen here."