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Belles Against Violence Office discusses changes

| Tuesday, September 25, 2018

At the end of last semester, Connie Adams, who served as the director of the Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) for eight years, stepped down from her post as the director of the organization. Since then, the organization has seen changes in its operations but maintains its mission at Saint Mary’s.

BAVO “educates students about sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking,” according to the organization’s page on the College website. This engagement comes from committees of students who plan programming and events for the student body throughout the year.

“Things have been really different [since Adams left],” senior Jordan Lolmaugh, co-chair of BAVO’s awareness and outreach committee, said. “It’s been kind of tricky figuring things out because she was the school social worker but also the director of BAVO, so now we don’t have anyone in that position. Emerald [Blankenship] is filling in and getting things going until they can hire a new director.”

While Blankenship is serving as BAVO’s interim director, she is also a hall director, which means she is a mandatory reporter for sexual assault, violence and stalking, senior Erin McClung, co-chair of the awareness and outreach committee, said in an email. As a mandatory reporter, Blankenship cannot be a confidential source, which Lolmaugh said has changed the position somewhat.

“One of the main things that was really essential in Connie’s role is that she was a confidential source,” Lolmaugh said. “Since Emerald is a hall director, she can’t be one. She has to be a mandatory reporter, given her role. That has limited her a bit. She’s been doing as much as she can, given that she has a lot of other responsibilities. But really, we just need someone who is specifically for [BAVO].”

While there has been some confusion regarding the confidentiality of reporting instances of sexual assault, stalking and relationship violence within BAVO, McClung said confidential resources for students struggling with these issues include Campus Ministry and the Health and Counseling Center, as well as the off-campus Sexual Offense Services.

Programming and events put on by BAVO have been less frequent this year because of the changes within the group, Lolmaugh said.

“This year we have had to hold back on starting programming just because of Connie leaving,” she said. “Normally by this point we would have done Green Dot training … [and] a Title IX panel just to get everyone, like freshmen, information about it. … We’re still trying to get things going. Hopefully by October we’ll be able to move along. It’ll be Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and hopefully we’ll be able to do events in that area.”

In the past, the awareness and outreach committee has hosted events called “Don’t Call Me Pumpkin,” in which students decorated pumpkins and discussed the effects of catcalling, and “Consent is Crystal Clear,” in which participants talked about what actually constitutes consent, McClung said.

The awareness and outreach committee also invites activist Debbie Riddle to speak to students about stalking each year, Lolmaugh said.

“Most of our events are more relaxed than the other events for other committees just because we’re smaller, and it’s just about education,” she said.

Despite the slower start this year, Lolmaugh said BAVO members have worked to recruit more people for the organization to increase the student leadership.

“We went to the involvement fair, and we started recruiting people in our halls, friends we knew and [people] in our classes,” she said. “We would love more people, but right now we have a good size.”

Those who are active in BAVO meet regularly to discuss programming and educational opportunities for the campus community, McClung said.

“I continue to educate myself and keep up to date on issues relating to violence and abuse,” she said.

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