For Sexual Assault Awareness month, Castleton State College has taken a few big strides in an attempt to help inform and educate Castleton students and community members about domestic and sexual violence prevention and intervention.Several groups have recently been formed on campus, including the CHANGE initiative, 1-in-4 and a survivor support group that meets every Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Old Chapel.
“Our intent is to raise awareness about relationship violence and to allow students to see why women often stay in abusive relationships,” said Linda Olson, co-chair of Castleton’s CHANGE initiative.
Olson is responsible for organizing educational programs involving sexual assault and relationship violence. The CHANGE initiative at Castleton began last fall and meets once every two weeks to organize activities that aim to raise awareness.
Student coordinates Adalberto Silva and Jaklyn VanManen also help organize CHANGE.
The group just coordinated a relationship with the Rutland County Women’s Network and Shelter and Miche Chamberlin, who is the executive director at the shelter, attended her first CHANGE meeting last week.
“I want to offer support to faculty, staff, students; basically the whole college population about domestic and sexual violence,” Chamberlin said. “We purposefully have a crisis advocate housed at the Castleton Police Department and Fair Haven Police Department who are available to the college community.”
Chamberlin was invited to Castleton recently for a panel discussion that explored relationship violence. Everyone in attendance wrote down a question to ask the panel members, who then had a chance to respond to them.The panel members included a former domestic violence offender, a police officer, and two survivors of domestic violence.
Chamberlin’s goal is to help make students aware that there is an advocate out there who is willing to help them.
Last week the group also sponsored a poetry slam in which sophomore Doug Phillips, a member of 1-in-4, was the emcee.
“Next year 1-in-4 is going to be changed into the Students Advocacy Program. We are currently accepting male and female applications,” Phillips said at the event.
To become a peer advocate, students must attend 40 hours of training during September. Credits will also be awarded to its members.
In addition to the program, Chamberlin encourages students to consider taking some time to volunteer at the women’s shelter.
“Volunteers can do a lot. We have a volunteer coordinator who assigns you to do grounds work, answer our crisis line, or you can even be trained on how to do crisis advocacy,” Chamberlin said.
For more information on the Change Initiative log on to www. castleton.edu/change If you are interested in volunteering at the women’s shelter, call (802) 775-6788, or (802) 775-3232 for the hotline.