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Relationship Violence Awareness Month offers ways to support survivors

  • Health and Wellness
  • Community Impact

Domestic violence and abuse have been on the rise during the pandemic.

October is Relationship Violence Awareness Month, highlighting the importance of support survivors and preventing misconduct. This month, the Pitt community is coming together to provide support for those who have survived sexual misconduct and to learn more about the signs of unhealthy relationships.

There’s still time to attend workshops and information fairs: Here are four ways you can get involved.

Learn how to support survivors

When students are looking for a safe person to talk to, one place they can go is the Survivor Support Network.

“It’s about thirty faculty and staff members who’ve gone through about four hours of training to learn about trauma, to learn about Pitt resources and community resources and how to respond to disclosure of sexual violence in a trauma-informed, empathetic way,” said Carrie Benson, the prevention and education coordinator in Pitt’s Title IX Office. “This is a program that has really grown over the last year, and the members are awesome.”

One opportunity for such training for faculty and staff will be offered with Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR) at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 20.

Later the same day, Pitt students who work as peer educators with SAFE (Sexual Assault Facilitation and Education) will offer their own Zoom workshop for students, based on a workshop they offer to student groups around campus.

“Our main goal is to eradicate sexual violence on our campus and college campuses in general. Peer education is a great way to do that: We learn best from people who are our age,” said Quinn Murphy, a Pitt senior and a SAFE peer educator. “People have a lot of fun at our programs. We make sure they’re interactive, and we don’t want it to feel like a lecture: You won’t be just sitting in the back of an auditorium.”

Speak with a confidential survivor advocate

For students, faculty or staff who have experienced sexual misconduct and need someone to talk to, the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is also partnering PAAR to provide walk-in hours with survivor advocates from the organization who provide inclusive, trauma-informed services. “They’re an amazing organization,” Murphy said.

Walk-in hours will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Oct. 27 at Disability Resources and Services, Room 140 in the William Pitt Union.

Be more than a bystander

Another workshop will address bystander intervention: How to step in when you see incidents of harassment or discrimination.

The Zoom session, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19, is entitled “My Voice Has Power: A Bystander Conversation,” and will cover tips on how to intervene and act as an ally.

Talk about what healthy — and unhealthy — relationships look like

Capping off the month of events will be the Healthy Relationships Fair, held on the William Pitt Union Lawn from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Oct. 29.

“It’s about helping students recognize what to look for in healthy relationships — while thinking about their own autonomy — and recognize some of the signs of abuse and unhealthy relationships,” Benson said.

The event will also feature giveaways and group activities. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun, we’ll have resources and we’ll have self-care and grounding items,” she said.

Visit the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to learn more about the month’s events.

— Patrick Monahan