Break the Silence has found a new home at the recently opened Office of Gender Violence Education and Support after a breakaway from its former place in the Women’s Center.
The goal of the office is to change the campus environment with regard to sexual assault, rape, intimate partner abuse and stalking by using the tools of education and a support network for all campus members. The office plans to provide education programs throughout the year, host interactive workshops and speakers, and run awareness campaigns.
Brook DeSipio, the office’s director, discussed the choice to bring Break the Silence from the Women’s Center to the new operation.
“As Lehigh’s gender violence prevention peer education group, Break the Silence was included in the new office of Gender Violence Education and Support so that they could continue their mission of educating peers about gender violence prevention, rape culture, healthy relationships and survivor support,” she said in an email. “In addition, BTS is instrumental in helping the new office educate all students on campus about gender violence prevention and resources.”
DeSipio has high hopes for the office, and aims to create “a campus culture free of gender violence, supportive of survivors and committed to healthy relationships.
“I hope I can build upon the positive skills and strengths of our students, faculty, staff and campus community,” she wrote. “I also hope Lehigh can serve as a model for other campuses in our approach to gender violence education, prevention and support.”
Vice Provost John Smeaton, like DeSipio, is expecting great things of the office. “In establishing the new office, our goals are to provide greater emphasis and visibility for the resources available to combat the issue of gender violence at Lehigh,” he said. “The principal efforts are aimed at prevention and providing support for those affected as it is needed.”
Even though Break the Silence is no longer with the Women’s Center, the two should be close allies.
“The Office of Gender Violence Education and Support will continue to work closely with and collaborate with the Women’s Center,” DeSipio said. “Many of the issues, goals and events of the two offices are connected so it is important that we continue our close relationship. I am very excited about all the exciting opportunities working with the Women’s Center will provide.”
Rita Jones, director of the Women’s Center, stated that she still plans on crossover.
“If you think about violence against women as a gender issue, there will certainly always be crossover…I know there are already some things in the works for co-sponsorship,” she said.
However, she noted that the Women’s Center now has the opportunity to expand into unexplored territory. The Women’s Center is now focusing on questions such as, “What is the Women’s Center role and purpose on campus? How can we promote it and be more inclusive? How does our name effect the way people see us?” she said.
The Office of Gender Violence Education and Support has its own website under Student Affairs (http://studentaffairs.lehigh.edu/content/gender-violence-education-support), phone line (610-758-1303) and email ([email protected]). Visitors to the site can find and fill out a “Gender Violence Reporting Form,” connect with Advocates and find information on gender violence policies, procedures and events hosted by the office. Additionally, visitors can find many more details to help those affected by campus culture surrounding sexual assaults and those looking to counteract the climate.