Four words intertwining for one common goal: to stop violence in relationships, not only in society, but specifically on a college campus.
Although this topic is not just targeted for college students, the RSVP Workshop, taking place on Wednesday, March 5, will create a safe zone for students concerned with this subject. The program is being hosted by the Humanities Department, which was given an anonymous donation in order to focus and fund a program on violence prevention. The coordinators of this event are Professors Rebecca Lartigue and Justine Dymond.
Although it is being hosted by the Humanities Department, the program is being led by the YWCA – the Young Women’s Christian Association – a group of trained educators focused on eliminating discrimination, preventing violence and promoting peace, justice and dignity for all.
Founded in 1858, the YWCA focuses on the health of women and children and provides women’s shelters and domestic violence services, along with educational programs such as the RSVP
Workshop they are conducting at Springfield College. When searching for a group, the Humanities Department knew that the YWCA was the right fit because of their extensive background in the topic of sexual violence.
The workshop will focus on a variety of different topics, all based along the lines of violence prevention. It will take a look into a college campus, targeting survivors and bystanders alike.
“I think there are a lot of campuses that really struggle with this issue that are trying to do the same thing,” said Lartigue. “There has been a renewed commitment by colleges in this country.”
As a country, there are many national mandated acts that have been put in place in large part due to violence on college campuses.
One that has been in effect since 1990 is the Clery Act, named after Jeanne Clery, who was a college student, raped and murdered by a fellow student in her college dorm on April 5, 1986. The act requires all colleges to report any crimes that occur “on campus.”
More recently, under President Barack Obama, a new act will be enforced as of March 2014, called the Campus SAVE Act, mandating that all colleges and universities guarantee victims enhanced rights, set standards for disciplinary proceedings, and require campus-wide prevention education programs.
“Relationship violence is something that is still very hidden, very taboo, full of shame and misinformation. It is often dismissed,” said Lartigue. “What we know is, too much of it is happening.”
This program is designed to help people here at Springfield College to be able to speak out and to help people deal with the emotions they are going through, whether they have been a victim or a bystander.
“The problem of silence is still there,” said Dymond.
“It is not the sole responsibility of those who experience it to speak out, but that tends to be where that burden is placed. We think it is important for everyone to speak out about it,” she added.
The workshop will be mostly interactive, including small and large group discussions.
The four words represented in the title of the workshop are based on the YWCA’s RSVP program.
Each word shows the different aspects of the event. Restoring respect to victims and bystanders is one of the program’s goals, along with preventing future violence on the college’s campus.
The RSVP Workshop is not biased towards anyone, and is going to make sure everyone is equipped in any situation.
“We really wanted something that would be interactive instead of a lecture or a panel discussion,” said Dymond.
The workshop will provide a place for students to open up if desired, but also create a safe place for people to talk.
It will be a confidential setting with ground rules for the environment. No one will be forced to share if they would rather sit and listen.
“I think every college and university is trying to create safe spaces for their students,” said Lartigue.
“We want students to feel that they can feel comfortable speaking up,” added Dymond.
Lartigue and Dymond believe that Springfield College is really moving forward, seeing a more aware environment for violence prevention.
With supporting groups such as SAVE and events like the Vagina Monologues, the hope is that students will pick up the lead and host events similar to the RSVP Workshop to continue to raise awareness.
The RSVP program is open to anyone on campus, and will include door prizes as well as refreshments. It is strongly recommended to bring a friend to the event, helping to spread awareness to more people on campus.
“It is an invitation to act, an invitation to make a choice,” said Lartigue.
The only question is: will you accept that invitation?