This semester, the Office of Gender Violence Prevention and Education and the Sexuality, Women and Gender Center (SWAG) are partnering to provide a series of empowerment self defense workshops. All four workshops will focus on assertive communication, boundary setting, bystander intervention and physical self-defense.
“We ask that people commit to going to all four sessions so that they’re really building community within the group and building trust in each other,” said Lisa Peterson, associate director of gender violence prevention and education. “The material kind of builds on itself.”
The four workshops will be led by a pair of facilitators from ‘Prevention. Action. Change.’ (PAC), a Portland-based group that focuses on countering abuse, assault and harassment. Peterson complimented this organization, noting the language it uses to achieve its goals.
“‘Prevention. Action. Change.’ focuses on exploring and sharing the ways that we can all take up more space in the world by expressing what we want, need and feel and then intervening early to prevent and respond to harassment abuse and assault,” Peterson said.
The program’s organizers hope to draw around 20 participants, a group size which will allow them to work with as many people as possible while still ensuring that all participants can practice the skills they learn and create a sense of community. The program is open to all self-identifying woman, gender non-conforming and non-binary individuals.
“It’s really taking the lens of thinking about the ways in which we construct gender as a society and how folks of those genders have been socialized to exist in the world and empowering folks to articulate what their [needs and desires are], and to feel confident and feel valid in doing that,” Peterson said.
Rachel Reinke, associate director of SWAG, echoed this sentiment, adding that the program emphasizes personal power and agency.
“It provides more options for what that power can look like,” she said. “I think that was something really appealing about this particular program because there are so many approaches that are being taken throughout all the sessions.”
Both Peterson and Reinke emphasized that the workshops provide a comprehensive approach to dealing with gender violence on campus.
While similar workshops have been offered twice in the past, the length of this year’s workshop makes the program different from that of previous years. Following feedback that previous workshops were too short in their first year and too long in their second year, the Office of Gender Violence Prevention and Education have decided to try four two-hour long sessions over the course of the semester.
“We hope that [the new format] will be the right balance of ensuring that folks have enough time together to really delve into the material, but that it’s also manageable with class schedules,” said Peterson.
With participants filling out anonymous surveys each year, Reinke reiterated that student feedback is essential to the program’s success.
The four workshops will begin next Tuesday night.