Monday, February 21, 2011

The Bathroom Just Got Educational

*Originally published in MetroState's Institute For Women's Studies and Services Newsletter, written by me.*

Have you gone to the restroom on campus lately? If you have, you might have noticed that The Phoenix Center at Auraria has a new way to get information about resources out, called The Bathroom Campaign. Over winter break, staff and volunteers from The Phoenix Center at Auraria and The Institute for Women’s Studies and Services installed frames in approximately 145 bathroom stalls across campus, with at least one set of restrooms in each building. The frames hold flyers with information about upcoming events, facts and statistics about interpersonal violence (Relationship Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking) and resources offered at The Phoenix Center at Auraria, such as the 24/7 helpline.

The process to gain special permission for this project began last summer when staff from The Institute and The Phoenix Center approached The Auraria Higher Education Center (AHEC) about receiving special permission to place the frames in bathroom stalls. The rationale is based upon the fact that there is very little privacy on the campus, which limits a survivor’s access to critical support information. The bathroom stall is the one place where an individual may be apt to read pertinent information about interpersonal violence services. Access to this crucial information, in a confidential way, may prompt a survivor to take a bigger step by writing down the phone number for the helpline and reaching out. Placing the signage on a bathroom stall door is significantly more effective and desirable than placing a sign in the bathroom itself by the sinks. In this case, a survivor would be seen reading the information or taking down a number and this lack of privacy will inhibit their choice to take the information. Similar bathroom marketing campaigns exist in a number of institutions across the country and they all report great success. Additionally, the campus bathrooms serve individuals (faculty, staff and students) from all three institutions, as well as AHEC, and thus this approach fulfills the Four-Institutional mission of The PCA and reach a wide audience.

As far as marketing goes, bathroom signs are wonderful because people will read them, what else would they do on the toilet? The average person uses the restroom at least 2-5 times per day; chances are that a good amount of those times will happen on campus. The signs will be seen and read, and the information will get out. And because there is at least one set of bathrooms in each building with these signs, we’re reaching the entire diverse campus community. And they can’t easily avoid it.

The most important aspect of The Bathroom Campaign though, is the confidentiality. A bathroom stall is one of the most private places on campus, therefore, the risk that somebody might see a survivor taking down information, the way they might if the signs were in a common area of the bathroom, is non-existent. This puts the survivor in a safe situation where they can consider The Phoenix Center at Auraria as an option for support either through the helpline or in-office advocacy. This privacy is especially important considering the rampant cultural norms of victim blaming and shame around interpersonal violence in our current society.

There is a list of departments we need to thank for this innovative way to get information to our campus community. The offices who sponsor The Phoenix Center at Auraria for The Bathroom Campaign are: The Institute for Women’s Studies and Services, Campus Recreation @ Auraria, UCD Student Life, UCD Community Standards and Wellness, and CCD Student Life and The Auraria Higher Education Center.

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