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Belles Against Violence Office promotes safe environment at College

and | Friday, September 8, 2017

One in four female college students experience sexual assault on a college campus. This statistic is what has inspired some members of the Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) to take action against sexual assault, dating abuse and stalking.

The group strives to create a culture of acceptance by showing the impact an active bystander can have on a situation, sophomore Courtney Driscoll, Student Advisory Committee member and Green Dot Committee co-chair, said.

“BAVO is the voice that stands for students who are maybe unable to speak, and it creates a safer space for students to feel more welcome and included,” Driscoll said. “It cultivates a culture just free of violence, which is really important — especially being an all-women’s campus.”

BAVO is constantly evolving it’s resources and programs so that it can continue to reach out to the diverse needs of the ever-growing campus, BAVO director Connie Adams said in an email. At its core, Adams said, BAVO’s mission is about constant support.

“Last year, the BAVO Student Advisory Committee began to focus on reinforcing that we are also Belles for … things like healing, support, strength, courage,” Adams said. “Unfortunately, power-based personal violence (PBPV) impacts individuals regardless of their identities, but we know some individuals/groups are at a higher risk or have unique challenges. We are having conversations about additional barriers to reporting for individuals who are of color or are a part of the LGBTQIA community.”

This year BAVO is hosting new events to help spread awareness to the Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame and Holy Cross communities in an engaging way, senior Abbie Spica said, one specific event being an information session on the importance of Title IX. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits gender-based discrimination in any federally-funded education program or activity.

“[The] Title IX event is open to all ND, HC and SMC students,” she said. “It’s important for all to attend. This is the first time we are going to be talking about Title IX beyond the scope of sexual assault. This year we are also working on some new collaborations with Feminists United and [the] Student Diversity Board, to name a few.”

BAVO not only has a large impact on campus communities, but also on the world at large, Spica said.

“It’s our responsibility to make sure we are taking care of our human community, and if we can do it on this campus in a fun and engaging way to raise awareness, then that’s a good way for us to accomplish our ultimate goal of ending violence,” Spica said.

Adams also believes that in order to end to violence, there needs to be a change in the mentality of society.

What we need is a culture change,” she said. “A culture where we aren’t afraid to talk about these issues, where we commit to demonstrate how violence is not one of our community values, where we recognize that we do play a role, even if we choose to do nothing. There is no such thing as neutrality. Either we act, or we don’t. If we don’t take collective and individual responsibility for our community, who will?”

The desire to stand up for others in order to end violence is what has led many students, like Driscoll, to joining BAVO and getting involved with the various programs it promotes. Driscoll said this club was the best way for her to stand up for what she believes in.

“I always knew that I wanted to stand up for things and be a leader, and I knew that I could do it through this,” she said. “I saw a chance to be a voice for people who were maybe too timid or afraid. I knew I had a voice, and that I needed to use my voice to help other people and my campus. I think the more people that get involved with BAVO will find that it draws you in and makes you want to be a voice, too.”

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