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Sexual Health Information Center opens

The opening of the Sexual Health Information Center on Wednesday drew students together to discuss issues regarding sexual habits on campus.      Lawrence Sumulong/The Scarlet and Black
The opening of the Sexual Health Information Center on Wednesday drew students together to discuss issues regarding sexual habits on campus. Lawrence Sumulong/The Scarlet and Black

On Wednesday, Sept. 30, Grinnell’s Sexual Health Information Center (SHIC) opened their doors for the first time. The SHIC, a student-run organization created to promote awareness of and educate Grinnell students about sexual health, held its first open house. Just under 100 people filtered in and out of the newly-opened center, located in the Multicultural Suites of the 2nd floor of the Joe Rosenfield Center.
Rebecca Bernstein ’10, a member of the Domestic Violence Alternatives/Sexual Assault Center (DVA/SAC), founded the center after hearing students from Oberlin College discuss their school’s Sexual Information Center while she was abroad. After listening to students from all over the United States while abroad in London, Bernstein learned that Grinnell was one of the few colleges without an organized sexual health program.
“There were only a few schools that had established centers, but all of them had some sort of program for STI testing, HIV testing, peer education—something like that, and Grinnell had nothing,” Bernstein said.
“Part of our mission is to distinguish sexual health from sexual orientation and sexual assault so that people don’t unintentionally link them together,” Bernstein said, referring to the fact that DVA/SAC and Stonewall Resource Center (SRC) did not offer comprehensive sexual health resources. “There wasn’t a set place to discuss sexual health issues and to learn about them, and I think especially on a college campus it’s a really important resource to have.”
Once Bernstein returned from abroad, she approached Asani Seawell,Psychology, who specializes in health psychology, who worked with Bernstein and Lynne Chollet on a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) that investigated sexual health resources on campus.
Over the course of the summer, Bernstein and Chollet presented their findings to Student Affairs and the Health Center. By mid-July they were awarded the space that once housed the Stonewall Resource Center (SRC) for the current academic year. The SHIC provides two basic services to the campus community–the Safer Sex Supplies Store and access to peer educators. The store sells 23 different types of condoms in addition to a number of lubricants, at prices ranging from 5 to 25 cents.
Though the SHIC is not legally able to administer Plan B emergency contraceptives, pregnancy tests will be available to students for $1 during regularly scheduled office hours.
Peer educators of the SHIC are students trained to answer questions and to assist students with issues of sexual health, including disease and pregnancy testing and problems with mental health. Students can attend free appointments with peer counselors on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6-8 p.m., Tuesday and Friday from 4-6 p.m. and on Sunday from 12-3 p.m.
“For students who feel uncomfortable talking about issues of sexual health with peers, they have institutionalized means where they can talk to someone who’s been trained,” said Ragnar Thorisson ’11, a peer educator.
The center has an email username, [SHIC], in addition to an AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) screen name–grinnellshic, for those who are not comfortable meeting face-to-face with a peer educator. In the future, the center plans to compile an accessible library for additional sexual health information. Additionally, there are plans to provide opportunities for students to test their sexual health know-how and to expand their knowledge. Future workshops will include queer sex education with StoneCo, and a discussion on virginity, allowing students who are not sexually active to benefit from the SHIC’s presence on campus.

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