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University commemorates Relationship Violence Awareness Month, uplifts survivors

| Monday, November 1, 2021

As October draws to a close, Notre Dame wraps up its annual programming honoring Relationship Violence Awareness Month (RVMA), led by the University’s Gender Relations Center (GRC). Throughout the past month, the GRC collaborated with students in planning and staffing a variety of events.

The programming addressed numerous aspects of relationship violence. On Oct. 4, 5 and 6, the GRC invited the community to visit Duncan Student Center to view an art installation entitled “What Were You Wearing?

Based upon the poem “What I Was Wearing” by Mary Simmerling, the installation showcases stories of sexual violence on various college campuses along with what each victim was wearing at the time. The exhibit invited visitors to reflect upon wrongful victim blaming, addressing the loaded question “What were you wearing?” and its implication that survivors could have prevented their assault if they had dressed in a different manner.

The Japanese art exhibit “Broken is Beautiful: Kintsugi” was held in LaFortune Student Center on Oct. 12. The annual event begins with a showing of a BBC video, explaining Kintsugi as the “art of fixing broken pottery,” a symbol for strength and perseverance as individuals overcome challenges and trauma. It is used by survivors as a restorative process.

Kaitlyn Stankiewicz, the GRC’s program coordinator for healthy relationships and community outreach, cites the Kintsugi event as one of the most memorable during the month.

“For me I always enjoy this event because it creates a relaxing space where students can break something, which can be therapeutic in itself, and put it back together, she said.

“Lunch & Learn: Let’s Talk Title IX” was held in the LaFortune Student Center on Oct. 7, where participants were invited to lunch with Amber Monroe, the Student Title IX Program Manager. The lunch encouraged dialogue surrounding Title IX, the U.S federal civil rights law which prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools.

On Oct. 27, the GRC hosted “A Pandemic within a Pandemic — Relationship Violence during COVID-19,” a discussion with Amelia Thomas, SOS Coordinator for the St. Joseph County Family Justice Center. The event highlighted the recent spike in domestic abuse amidst the pandemic.

For many of the events, the GRC was supported by various on-campus organizations and residence halls. The cosponsors for the month were Farley Hall, Ryan Hall, Lewis Hall, Sorin Hall, the University Counseling Center (UCC), McWell, Family Justice Center, greeNDot and the Japan Club. Sorin Hall, Lewis Hall and the Japan Club were new campus partners this year.

Stankiewicz said these new partnerships were an effort “to connect with students who may not otherwise think to attend events related to RVMA.”

Co-sponsor residence halls actively took part in hosting programs honoring RVMA. On Oct.10, Farley Hall and Ryan Hall hosted a greeNDot Bystander Training session in LaFortune Student Center. The training aimed to empower participants to intervene in instances of interpersonal harm and create positive change.

Lewis Hall Chapel hosted a Healing Mass in collaboration with Sorin Hall on Oct. 13. The Mass honored victims of survivors of relationship violence, and provided ribbons and prayer cards.

Stankiewicz noted the month’s importance in discussing the experiences of survivors.

“This month is a great way to bring awareness to the campus community on a topic that is not always talked about, Stankiewicz said. “We don’t all talk about it but all of us in some way have some connection to this issue, whether it’s from personal experience, a loved one, friend or a friend’s relative.

Stankiewicz continued by considering implications for the tri-campus as a whole.

“Within the tri-campus community, there are individuals who have experienced relationship violence and we need to talk about it so we know what the red flags are, what we can do as a victim, what we can do as a bystander, what resources are available and how we can be an ally,” she said.

RVMA raises awareness on a pressing issue, one which we should “all actively stand against because we care about the human dignity of everyone in our community,” Stankiewicz said.

While the GRC and its partners wrap up another month of insightful and thought-provoking events, the topic of relationship violence is one that remains an active dialogue throughout the year on campus.

The GRC will continue with related programming in January for Stalking Awareness Month and in April for Sexual Violence Awareness Month. Additionally, Stankiewicz said, the group plans on hosting events promoting healthy relationships throughout the year, especially in February in partnership with Campus Ministry for a week of programing called “Sex and the Soul Week.” This week will seek to promote dialogue about the intersection of faith, sexuality and relationships.

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