In 1998, the University Health Services of the University of Arkansas began the STAR Central Office. STAR Central served the University through both, education and victim advocacy. It quickly became apparent that more education was needed about sexual violence and sexual assault. Hence, in the Fall of 1999, the constructs of a peer education program began and grant money was sought. By January 2000, six students were hired to serve as the first peer education team that would reach out to students of the University of Arkansas and its surrounding community. The following year, the group adopted the name RESPECT (Rape Education Services by Peers Encouraging Conscious Thought).
From its beginning, the group has been comprised of men and women trained as peer educators to provide rape awareness, prevention, and risk reduction education with a message of advocacy for victims and survivors to university classes, organizations, residence halls, Greek organizations, and other campus groups. RESPECT also collaborates with community service providers to address the issue of sexual assault through community awareness initiatives.
RESPECT uses the concept of peer education to maximize its message and to transform the college community’s norms and attitudes toward rape. Peer educators are college students providing programming to other college students. This is accomplished through multi-faceted and innovative efforts to include interactive classroom presentations, awareness activities and events, and campus-wide participatory programs. RESPECT offers the “While the Professor is Away Program,” which enables RESPECT to present to professors’ classes when they must be away on business rather than canceling their classes. This has provided an excellent opportunity to reach out to students across campus.
In addition, a number of campus-wide initiatives are undertaken throughout the year that brings about awareness of sexual assault issues, educates others about risk reduction strategies, and provides support for those who have been victimized by sexual assault through the provision of campus and community resources. Many of these outreach events have become well-known on campus as they continue year after year. As programming initiatives continue, RESPECT has gained a strong foundation and presence throughout the University community and its surrounding areas.