Sexual Health Educator Will Now Focus on Helping Victims of Sexual Assault

Divya B. Kumar, MIT Medical’s former sexual health educator, will now work exclusively on sexual violence issues in the newly-created position of violence prevention and response advocate.

Kate McCarthy has been hired as an assistant health educator and will take on Kumar’s former job of providing MIT students with advice about dating, contraceptives, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Kumar’s primary responsibility will be to aid sexual assault victims in their recoveries: “I will work with survivors to connect them with whatever non-emergency services they seek; that is, changing their housing, filing a police report, navigating the disciplinary process at MIT, changing their class schedule, and obtaining counseling services,” she said.

“Although many services for survivors exist at MIT, navigating through the myriad offices can be challenging, especially for someone who has recently experienced trauma,” she said.

The new position was created after MIT received a $200,000 grant from the Department of Justice in 2005. The grant aimed to fight sexual assault on campus. So far, the program has worked to raise awareness and encourage victims to seek aid.

“At MIT, like many other colleges, sexual assault and related crimes often go unreported,” she said. “It is the goal of our program to build on an environment where people feel safe coming forward, while strengthening our culture of respect.”

Clinical Director for Campus Life Maryanne Kirkbride said she thought the program had been a success so far, pointing to the fact that the number of reported sexual assaults on campus had risen from zero to eleven.

McCarthy said that, as a sex educator, “My role is to put as much correct information into people’s minds and to make people make informed sexual decisions … Sexual health is not just about the plumbing act of actual intercourse.”

Before coming to MIT, McCarthy worked as a school health project coordinator in the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States and a sex educator at Bentley College.

Kirkbride said that having a sex educator at MIT is important because “we have nutrition and sleep educators as well, and sexual health is part of being a healthy person.”