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VPI to hold final event of the year

Sarah Mervosh | Friday, April 24, 2009

The Gender Relations Center (GRC) will host its first annual “Now is the Time: Festival on the Quad” today to celebrate the commitment to overcoming sexual violence on campus, GRC director Heather Rakoczy Russell said.

The festival, which is a part of the GRC’s Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI), is the program’s biggest event of the year, will take place on South Quad today from 3 to 8 p.m.

The festival will be VPI’s final event of the semester, Rakoczy Russell said.

She said VPI – a program launched earlier this year – has accomplished some of its goals, but still has “room to grow.”

“Where we have succeeded this year so far is raising awareness about violence in the local community and healing of survivors,” Rakoczy Russell said. “And the fact that we are doing some charity fundraising.”

She said VPI could improve by raising awareness about violence on a global scale and by becoming a “flagship” for other Catholic schools doing similar work.

Rakoczy Russell said VPI needs more experience before it can fully accomplish its goals.

“I’m not surprised that I don’t feel like we’re fully hashed on the flagship piece but I feel pretty confident that we’re heading in the right direction,” Rakoczy Russell said.

But she said VPI has been successful enough to continue next year, and will host three major events per semester. The festival will be one of those events and will take place again next spring, she said.

The festival will begin with a film that “explores how music videos and the media influences our perception of sex and power,” Rakoczy Russell said.

There will also be a corn hole tournament with a $5 entry fee to raise money for SOS of Madison Center, the Rape Crisis Center for St. Joseph County, she said.

Rakoczy Russell said she hopes corn hole will be an attraction for people who would not have otherwise attended a GRC event and hopes that these people will have the opportunity to hear the festival’s message.

“We’re hoping with a festival like this that someone might come just because they like to play corn hole,” she said.

The festival will also feature a speech from Donald McPherson, who is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and a veteran of the NFL. His speech is entitled “You Throw Like a Girl” and will take place at 6 p.m. on South Quad.

He will focus on social power and also speak about the explicit and implicit forms of violence, Rakoczy Russell said.

“So everything from the way we talk to the jokes we tell or our silence on to overt things we do that endanger ourselves and others, like excessive drinking,” she said.

The event will conclude with a Notre Dame student speak-out, in which student pieces of writing regarding sexual violence will be read out loud. Either the author will read it, or in the case of anonymity, someone will read it for them, Rakoczy Russell said.

A dance about sexual assault and violence will conclude the speak-out.

“Sometimes the art is a way to express those things that language doesn’t really capture,” she said.

Rakoczy Russell said there will be brats, burgers and sno-cones at the festival. T-shirts will also be sold, she said.

“The one thing that I think is distinctive about the festival is that … it’s the kind of thing we hope will be accessible to someone who wouldn’t normally come to [a GRC] event,” Rakoczy Russell said.