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SMC Hosts Annual BAVO Kickoff Picnic

| Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Saint Mary’s Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) held its annual kickoff picnic to raise awareness of sexual assault and confidential resources available on campus through the organization, BAVO director Connie Adams said.

The event was moved inside to the Noble Dining Hall due to weather Wednesday evening, but that didn’t lower the energy of the students, Adams said.

“The dynamics of the event change with a new venue, but the integrity of the event remains the same,” Adams said.

The BAVO office advocates for a culture free from violence through education, training and support, Adams said.

“Our primary goal is to raise awareness and connect students with the office,” she said. We’re excited to debut the Clothespin Project. Students will have the opportunity to decorate a clothespin with paint and sequins and incorporate a positive message. Then, they take the clothespins and give them to others who either seem to need the positive message or exemplify what it shares. The concept is based on enhancing our community and empowering those who are a part of the community.”

The kickoff included food services from SODEXO, a DJ, crafts and a photo booth, Adams said.

“I hope students who come to the kickoff event have fun and gain a better understanding of BAVO,” she said. “Sometimes these issues can be difficult to talk about, but I hope they learn that we can approach them in a positive way. I hope they take a picture away from the photo booth and flyer from our awareness table and a fun craft to hang in their room or share with a friend.”

BAVO Advisory Committee member and senior Payton Moore is in her second year as head of the Outreach and Awareness Committee, whose mission is to spread knowledge to students, faculty, and staff through educational events and discussions, Moore said.

“It was interesting to have an event I have always seen outdoors inside the student center,” Moore said. “We were able to make the Student Center and the DH [dining hall] into BAVO Central. I’m really happy that a lot of Saint Mary’s women held up #yesallbelles signs in their pictures. It’s a hashtag that BAVO really wants to promote this year, and I think this kickoff was a great way of doing just that.”

Adams said students often approach her with their stories of prevention.

“Sometimes it’s after a student seeks support services for herself or her friend,” she said. “Sometimes it’s the Green Dot stories when someone feels empowered to take action and literally prevent violence. I just heard a story from a current first-year who heard about Green Dot when she visited campus last year from the student she stayed with, and it became one of the main reasons she chose Saint Mary’s because of what it represented for our wider community.

“More than anything, I want students to know that violence is not inevitable, that prevention is possible, and that we, each of us, are a part of the solution. I hope BAVO helps each student discover what that means for her.”

Student body president, senior McKenna Schuster, agreed to have Student Government Association (SGA) sponsor the event after Adams reached out to SGA over the summer, Schuster said.

“SGA has offered to sponsor, because Student Government has a large pull on the student body and can really spread the word about events going on more effectively,” Schuster said. “Connie had reached out to me over the summer asking if SGA would want to sponsor the BAVO kickoff event. We’ve helped in the past, [and] we have so much woman power. We have about 35-40 girls in student government.”

Understanding what on-campus confidential resources BAVO provides allows students to utilize the office after freshmen orientation, Schuster said.

“I find that student government has a really good relationship with Connie in the BAVO office,” she said. “I think Connie has certain outreach in terms of the students she has on her advisory council. I believe she has one girl on the volleyball team, so now the volleyball team has reached out to student government. One of their games [is] raising awareness about sexual assault. I would hope that as student leaders, people would look to us to see what’s going on on campus [and] what are the relevant topics. I really emphasize that girls in student government really try to get the word out there about certain events that are going on.”

BAVO organizes year-round events including self-defense classes and Green Dot training to maintain a constant on-campus presence, Adams said.

“The first week of classes, we had a Green Dot training with an enthusiastic response,” Adams said. “We also have a … basic self-defense session on Monday, which was co-sponsored by Security, Women’s Health, BAVO, and Athletics.

“[Tuesday], we hosted a presentation on Title IX and unveiled our new shirt with the back design of #YesAllBelles. Of course, we have a range of programming offered for incoming students including Sex Signals improvisation program, student-facilitated small groups and a Green Dot overview supported by Student Involvement and Multicultural Services (SIMS) and Student Government Association.”

For women and as young adults, it is crucial to know how to prevent and handle uncomfortable situations, Schuster said.

“Especially at an all-women’s college with co-ed colleges next door and across the street where a lot of our social scene comes from, it’s just really important to know what consent is [and] know the resources … if something were to happen and to keep yourself safe. You can’t control others, but you can control yourself. I just think it’s really important and pertinent information to carry with you,” Schuster said.

The message of BAVO emphasizes how much the organization cares about students, Moore said.

“To me, the message of BAVO is quite simple: We care. We know that Saint Mary’s students care about each other,” Moore said. “Thus, we strive to give Saint Mary’s students the skills to recognize and appropriately respond to violence against women which will in turn help decrease the very violence that impacts our community.”

Adams said it is the strength of survivors of sexual and relationship violence that inspires her and other mentors to work with students and the Saint Mary’s community.

“I feel a calling to do this work, to reduce violence and, more specifically, to do this here, at Saint Mary’s,” Adams said. “It’s a true blessing to work with such incredible, passionate and inspiring women.

“When I hear stories of students who take initiative and educate their friends, when a student shares her excitement about intervening in a situation and helping a friend or someone she doesn’t even know [and] when I see the progress we’re making, I’m filled with great hope for the cultural change we’re working towards.”

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