Today, most stories that make the news about college campuses and intimate partner violence are tales of tragedy; stories of students being assaulted by their peers and the additional pain that too many of them experience when campus administrators mishandle their cases if they come forward for help. These stories provide us with powerful narratives of the prevalence of sexual and dating violence on college campuses and the need for widespread change among many campuses and universities to improve their capacity to respond to the needs of survivors using trauma-informed and empowerment models. But the media seldom covers the incredible activism that is happening every day on college and university campuses. Much of that activism is student and survivor-led and these leaders are creating incredible social and systemic change in their communities. Today, we wanted to share with you a couple of powerful examples of student activism happening at Lasell College in Newton.
I grew up only a few blocks from Lasell College’s campus and drove by it nearly every day of my childhood and adolescence. I never could have imagined how much time I would spend there as an adult professional and the student activism that I would come to know and be inspired by. Lasell is a relatively small campus located in a quiet suburban neighborhood but the activism and energy that is being cultivated there is anything but quiet. With the leadership and guidance of Professor Karin Raye students, administrators, and faculty are fostering a community of social action and a culture of social change. Karin’s leadership style is collaborative; her years of working in the domestic violence field has connected her with local organizations like REACH and experts whom she frequently brings in to meet with students and to support their initiatives. Karin demonstrates to her students the value of collaboration and insight from local providers while also making it clear that the students are experts in their own right and that their voices matter. Karin and I have partnered on several different initiatives and she often brings me in to meet with her students. What is clear to me is that these students have found ways to not only become more knowledgeable about the issues of intimate partner violence, they are owning this issue and finding ways to use their creativity and leadership to educate and empower their peers.
This winter I had the honor of co-facilitating workshops for two different student groups at Lasell that yielded incredible results. In collaboration with student leaders, we led a workshop for the entire men’s lacrosse team in March. The workshop was initiated by the team captains who are both taking courses on sexual violence with Karin. The workshops allowed the team to become educated and to lend their voices through an open and honest dialogue about times they’ve witnessed intimate partner violence among their peers and how hard it is to know what to say or do about it. With leadership from their captains, the team decided to take the lead on the White Ribbon Campaign – an international effort that engages men around the issues of domestic and sexual violence. Through pledges and awareness campaigns, these young men made it clear to their peers that these are issues they care about. As their captain Mike Pino said, “We work hard every day to become better lacrosse players, but we also work even harder every day to become better men, and with that comes the responsibility of raising awareness in regards to issues like these.” Lacrosse is the only contact sports at Lasell; these young men used popular misconceptions about male athletes and their status as leaders in their community to bring attention and awareness to these critical issues.
Another powerful and very different approach to how we engage others in this dialogue is a recent project by an art/ceramics course at Lasell. Earlier this year, Karin and I co-facilitated a workshop for this class, taught by Deborah Baldizar. Immediately following our discussion, the students used clay to process their reactions and help spread awareness on their campus. Each student in the class created ceramic sculptures of hands to covey different messages about the issue of intimate partner violence. Each hand is unique and the meaning behind them are incredibly powerful. Check out the slideshow below to see these sculptures and read the descriptions.
These are only a couple examples of the incredible activism happening at Lasell. In June, we invite you to hear more from Karin Raye who will be honored for her work and speaking on our panel as part of our Annual Meeting that will focus on how to engage the young people in your lives about relationship violence on college campuses.