In conjunction with the back-to-school season, during September we observe National Campus Safety Awareness Month to encourage conversations about awareness and prevention of violence at colleges and universities across the country. On average, 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime and 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college. With the pandemic putting women and girls at increased risk of gender-based violence and young folks being hit hardest by loneliness during the pandemic, our youth are especially vulnerable as they plan to attend college on campus this fall. That is why as a nation, we must support students and take a stand against sexual and gender-based violence on college campuses.
Addressing sexual assault and engaging in violence prevention is in our DNA. As the nation’s largest provider of domestic violence services, we know that addressing the cycle of gender-based and sexual violence starts with early prevention. However, we also know that a robust campus safety program must engage youth prior, during, and after college to stop and prevent future violence.
YWCA Evanston/North Shore’s unique and holistic approach to addressing gender-based and domestic violence provides a space for folks of all ages and genders to engage in campus safety and violence prevention initiatives. Their groundbreaking four-component Relationship Violence Prevention program works to address relationship violence by helping young people understand what healthy relationships look like, challenging cultural norms of masculinity, and engaging men as allies. The Building Healthy Relationships component of the program seeks to stop violence through early intervention by helping students in grades K-12 build the social-emotional skills they need to treat one another with respect and dignity as they mature. These types of programs are essential to preventing campus violence, since they begin addressing the issue and preparing students before they go off to college. YWCA Evanston/North Shore also consults with colleges and universities in their community on campus dating violence, by providing education and training as well as counseling and support groups for both students and staff in the Campus Dating Violence component of the program. Additionally, their Men’s Leadership Initiative invites men to become leaders and teaches them how to mentor their peer groups to stop behaving in ways that encourage, condone, or actively promote violence against women and girls. Lastly, their Alternatives to Violence component seeks to end violence by providing services to offenders, to hold them accountable, promote safety and justice for victims and children, and to bring about the social change necessary to end battering and all forms of domestic and gender-based violence.
This four-component program allows YWCA Evanston/North Shore to address gender-based violence at all ages, ensure youth know what healthy relationships look like, inform college students on how to address and prevent violence, empower men to take a stand and lead their peers to stop the violence, provide perpetrators a space to be held accountable, and equip abusers with conflict resolution skills so they have alternatives to violence.
Due to the exemplary work of YWCAs like YWCA Evanston/North Shore across our network, young women AND men continue to be supported prior to, during, and after the college experience. As our YWCA network continues the fight against gender based violence on college campuses, we implore you to join us as we get up and do the work to build a world where women, girls, and marginalized genders are protected and empowered.
For more information on how to promote campus safety and prevent gender-based violence in your community, find a YWCA near you or check out the Clery Center for related fact sheets, podcasts, webinar recordings, and more!