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Hands for Hope, Office of Security raise awareness for Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Belmont Hands for Hope and the coordinator of security programs launched a series of convocations Wednesday to raise awareness for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Two of the biggest programs scheduled are “Escalation” and “What is Consent?,” which deal with dating violence and sexual assault respectively. “Escalation” uses a film to demonstrate warning signs of relationship violence, while the consent program will examine “the dynamics of sexual assault and examine our own values and beliefs about intimate behavior,” according to the event description.

The two convos differ from previous awareness programs in both content and delivery, HFH president Christina Hughes said.

“We don’t usually show films at Belmont dealing with these issues just because they’re so hard to find. And sometimes they’re either too intense that we wouldn’t even be able to show it on campus, or it’s just hitting the surface,” Hughes said regarding “Escalation.”

“Escalation” satisfied Hughes as a medium because it provides both basic education and examples of how to intervene and combat violence in a relationship before the violence gets out of hand, she said. The program uses a 90-minute film followed by a discussion group to educate participants.

Hughes also wanted this year’s DVAM to be different by including a program about consent.

She noticed an increased student interest in consent at a Sexual Assault Awareness Week event during the spring of 2015.

“Literally, we got on a tangent of consent within the first 10 minutes,” Hughes said. “That’s what people wanted to talk about.”

Coordinator of Security Programs Liz Grubb is working with HFH by leading the “What is Consent?” convo. Grubb plans to discuss what consent is and isn’t and what to do in different situations involving consent so students can, as she put it, reclaim consent as a concept.

“I really try and help people remember that only you can give consent,” Grubb said. “Just because the situation may be ominous or scary or filled with pressure, that doesn’t mean that you have to give consent.”

Grubb will also dive into the effect alcohol and substances can have on consent. While Belmont is a dry campus, Grubb said it would be naive to think that underage drinking doesn’t happen.

“I do want to be smart in saying the university doesn’t condone this behavior, but, if you find yourself in this situation, you can’t give consent,” she said.

Since Hughes started HFH in 2013, the group has slowly moved from basic-level education on domestic violence to exploring the issue more deeply.

The biggest challenge with these issues is avoiding sugarcoating the reality of sexual and domestic violence without scaring people away, Hughes said.

“There’s a fine line between not giving people enough information and then being way too intense,” Hughes said.

This is especially true if survivors are present.

“You can’t be super intense or super in-your-face about it because there could be a victim sitting in the audience, and you could trigger something for them,” said Hughes.

“Escalation” is Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the Bunch Multimedia Hall. “What is Consent?” will be Friday at 10 a.m. in McWhorter 108.

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