Investing in our sustainability: REACH and Bentley partner to address intimate partner violence

REACH is excited to announce an enhanced partnership with Bentley University for the 2021-2022 academic year. REACH staff are working closely with administrators, faculty, and staff to support Bentley in their development of internal structures to address gender-based violence, and to make systemic and cultural shifts that will allow every Bentley community member – student, staff, and faculty – to feel safe and supported and able to thrive during their time at Bentley. In return, Bentley University has agreed to expand and formalize the partnership between the two organizations and invest $25,000 in REACH, demonstrating its commitment to these issues and to an important community resource on which so many Bentley community members rely.

Over the past several years, REACH has demonstrated a strong commitment and consistent dedication to the Bentley community. A little over four years ago, we began deepening our work by signing on as a Core Leadership Team member on an Office on Violence Against Women grant that the University received. This opportunity allowed us to develop relationships with staff, students, and faculty throughout the Bentley community. By the 2020-2021 academic year, REACH had become a trusted resource to support staff and administrators as they navigated evolving community needs resulting from the pandemic.

When an anonymous Instagram account provided a space for survivors to share their experiences with gender-based violence on campus, it was a powerful demonstration of student activism and survivor leadership. As Bentley’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Katie Lampley shared, “The administrators of the Instagram account brought attention to the impact of sexism on our community and shared a strong plan for ways to make a difference. The levels at which sexism operates range from interpersonal interactions to systemic policies and practices. We all have a role to play in preventing and responding to sexism.” REACH has worked closely with Bentley staff to offer a coordinated response to implement the recommendations put forth by the student administrators of this Instagram account. In the past year, REACH’s director of prevention programs, Jessica Teperow, has facilitated listening sessions with students, presented to the Board of Trustees, and led trauma-informed training for faculty and staff. In addition to these efforts, Jessica is now offering weekly office hours to provide consultation and support for Bentley employees and students. Jessica shared, “It has been an honor to support so many amazing members of the Bentley community over the past several years. We are deeply invested in supporting Bentley to implement structural and systemic changes that will strengthen the University’s capacity to recognize, respond to, and prevent gender-based violence.”

REACH has helped Bentley leadership to identify strategic areas for further development of community strengths to address gender-based violence. REACH and Bentley are aligned in seeing this next year as critical to adapting Bentley’s structures, policies, and practices to strengthen the University’s response to gender-based discrimination, harassment, and bias. It is REACH’s expectation that by engaging in such intensive work over the next year, Bentley will be in a much stronger position to address these issues internally and in sustainable ways. We are excited for the work together, and hope that this partnership – deeply investing in sustainable approaches – can serve as a model for other campus and community partners.