Members of the team for the Office of Gender Violence. Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Professor Brooke Desipio is the director of the office. (Courtesy of Brooke Desipio)

American Psychological Association highlights Lehigh GVES office


Women, gender, and sexuality studies Professor Brooke Desipio was featured in an article published by American Psychological Association (APA) on Feb. 18 for her work as the director for the Office of Gender Violence Education & Support (GVES) at Lehigh University.

Charlotte Huff, journalist and author of the article titled “A Crisis of Campus Sexual Assault,” reached out to DeSipio to learn more about Lehigh’s programs, including GVES.

“I’m glad that folks are bringing attention and having conversations about these topics,” DeSipio said. “It’s important to be having these conversations, so (I’m) glad she was doing the research and the work on it.”

Desipio became the director of GVES when it was first established in 2014. GVES provides resources to students who are victims of sexual assault and advocates preventative measures to avoid sexual assault. 

“Most schools don’t do healthy sexuality education as a form of assault prevention, and so that makes (GVES) really, really unique,” DeSipio said. 

GVES is home to a group of advocates trained to provide support and resources to victims of sexual assault, intimate partner abuse, stalking and other forms of violence. An GVES advocate is available at all times via phone call. 

Scott Burden, the director of the Pride Center at Lehigh, is one of 14 GVES advocates who  answers these calls. 

“I think it’s so important for the university to offer a space that is explicitly a space where survivors are believed, and that is centered in all of our work,” Burden said. “We get to support students that are victims of sexual assault, and support them in whatever ways they need.”

Burden sees GVES advocacy work as bettering the community on a grander scale as they promote safer sex practices and a culture of consent.

From left to right: Kevin McNulty, ’22, Bella King,’22, Sofia Mottola, ’23, and Sydney Berkowitz, ’23, stand at a table for the Office of Gender Violence and Education Support on the lawn. Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Professor Brooke Desipio is the director of the office. (Courtesy of Brooke Desipio)

Concerns about rising sexual assault rates are becoming a prominent national issue as many students return to campus for the first time since the pandemic began. 

In fall 2021, Lehigh, like many other schools across the nation, essentially welcomed two classes of first-years at once, as sophomores did not necessarily experience a traditional first year of college. Since new students are most likely to be sexually assaulted from their first week up until Thanksgiving, Desipio said more students than ever were at risk this year.

“Students are the most susceptible to sexual assault during that period for a variety of reasons,” DeSipio said. “One, being in a completely new environment for the first time, and two, not having a good support group yet.”

GVES and its advocates have been working hard to prevent this issue on Lehigh’s campus by spreading awareness and serving as a safe space for those who have experienced sexual assault. Desipio further said that anyone in need of support or an advocate should utilize the resources provided by GVES.

Samantha Randall, a graduate assistant for GVES, encourages all Lehigh students to get involved on campus and take action against sexual assault by joining clubs such as Break the Silence (BTS), an organization that operates under GVES.

“I would not be the person I am today without GVES and BTS,” Randall said. “It really changed my life (and) my perspective on life.”

GVES strongly encourages all Lehigh students who have been a victim of sexual assault to contact an advocate at their line: 610-758-4763.

To read Desipio’s full article, click here.

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