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GRC sponsors month for relationship violence prevention

| Tuesday, October 15, 2019

For its 15th annual Relationship Violence Awareness Month (RVAM), the Gender Relations Center (GRC) organized a lineup of events and activities to recognize the importance of violence prevention in the Notre Dame community.

RVAM takes place in October to coincide with National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The sponsored activities range from educational programming to hands-on experiences to allow students to learn about the issue in different ways.

John Johnstin, assistant director for student engagement and community outreach for the GRC, said the wide variety of events allows the GRC to achieve its goal of promoting dialogue regarding relationship violence.

“As we look at the month, we’re trying to engage in the conversation about relationship violence, support, how to deal with the trauma [and] educational complexities,” he said. “… Having all of those elements try to come into a holistic conversation about the topic is the goal.”

In planning the month of sponsored events, Johnstin and the GRC evaluated the atmosphere on campus regarding relationship violence.

“Each year we look at the programs, we try to bring in new speakers, we try to adjust the topics, we try to look at what’s happening and say, ‘Are we having a conversation that will meet the needs of the students the best that we can?’” Johnstin said.

FIREstarters, a group of student leaders at the GRC, also contributes to hosting events as part of RVAM. Senior Casey Cheyeon Kim, a program assistant at the GRC, said in an email October is an important month for the FIREstarters group to create programs to connect with Notre Dame students.

“We aim to create healthy dialogue around the topics of interpersonal violence, relationships and authenticity, gender identity and intersectionality, and sexual identity,” Kim said.

While the month as a whole is an awareness campaign, Johnstin and Kim highlighted other activities that offer support to those who have been personally impacted by relationship violence.

On Friday, the GRC co-sponsored a healing program, “Kintsugi” with the McDonald Center for Student Well-Being. At the program, students broke ceramic pots for holding succulents and then reconstructed the pots based on the traditional Japanese ceramic art of “Kintsugi.” Johnstin described this activity as “symbolism of healing.”

“It’s trying to get them to recognize that even though the symbolic pot might be broken, you can still work on it and put it back together,” Johnstin said. “You can still work through trauma, and there are supports and resources here for them.”

In an effort to raise participation in the awareness aspect of the month, members of the RVAM team handed out purple shirts Monday morning to students at Fieldhouse Mall. The GRC is asking the entirety of campus to wear purple this Wednesday to honor victims and survivors of relationship violence.

Johnstin spoke of his belief that small actions such as “Wear Purple Day” can contribute to a positive campus culture that promotes dialogue on difficult topics.

“I think when we start to look at relationship violence, often it’s something that remains silent and in the shadows, whether it’s individuals that feel afraid to come forward or individuals that don’t feel like they’ll be believed for whatever the reason is,” Johnstin said. “Maybe it’s enough that they see somebody that has a t-shirt on, and they see that little bit of support on a topic that may be afraid to come forward with.”

In addition to recurring events, the GRC looks to add new events to diversify the conversations taking place. New this year, sociology professor Mark Gunty will give a talk titled “Understanding Gender and Violence” on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. in Duncan Student Center. Johnstin said the educational lecture will focus on gender conversations.

“This is the very first time that I’ve worked with [Gunty],” Johnstin said. “I had a couple of students that talked about his class, and so I looked him up and found that it was pertinent to the conversation that we’re having.”

The GRC will end the month with the second annual Fall Festival on Oct. 31, which will also serve as a closing to LGBTQ History Month. Johnstin described the festival as “a fun social campaign where students and student-led groups like FireStarters come together” to wrap up the month of outreach.

“Everybody has different experiences, and there are people that have come here that have experienced unbelievable strategies,” Johnstin said. “We want to make sure that they know that people will believe them and will support them and will help them get to the resources they need. So that’s really at the heart of what we’re trying to do.”

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