Letter to the Editor: There should be an exemption for sexual assault prevention training for survivors

Those who have survived sexual assault should not have to take the mandatory sexual assault prevention training at the University of Minnesota.

Letter to the Editor

I would like to spark a discussion regarding the mandatory online course at the University of Minnesota titled “Sexual Assault Prevention for Graduate Students.” Undergraduate students here are also required to take mandatory sexual assault prevention training.

I have taken a handful of these courses by now and am quite familiar with them. As a provider in Obstetrics and Gynecology with particular interest for survivors of sexual assault, I reached out to inquire if there was an exemption for them. I was surprised when told that the course was still required for everyone, but given a referral to the Aurora Center for Advocacy & Education for any difficulty experienced while completing it. I appreciate the Aurora Center’s incredible work for being there for survivors, but it seems to me that if the issue for some survivors is the course itself, it would be far more compassionate to have an exemption. 

I am unsure what the overall consensus on exemptions is at academic institutions across the country, but have reached out to a few of my previous undergraduate and graduate professors. I also immediately reached out to several of my OB-GYN colleagues to discuss this. Everyone I have spoken with thus far has agreed with my professional opinion that merely referring victims to a counseling center to help them get through the course is at best insensitive, and at worst, harmful. And is that not the opposite of what our goal is? Perhaps a one-size-fits-all approach to such requirements is easier, but I argue that overall student well-being is worth the effort. I understand the intention of the course is prevention of sexual assault, but I would be grateful if we showed a bit of extra understanding and flexibility in “requirements” for those who have already experienced it. This is not a trauma-informed policy for the University to adhere to.

This letter to the editor has been lightly edited for style and clarity. 

Nickey Jafari is a resident in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Minnesota. She received her M.D. from the University of Kansas and her M.P.H. from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.