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PEACC celebrates 10 years on campus

by UofL Today last modified Nov 12, 2009 09:12 AM

Helping college women who have been victims of violence, bringing greater community awareness to the incidence of violence on campuses and generating a focus on violence prevention.

For the past decade, the University of Louisville’s Prevention, Education and Advocacy on Campus and in the Community (PEACC) program has worked to create a campus culture that does not tolerate violence against women.

The group will celebrate its 10th anniversary and successes Sept. 29 during its annual “Take Back the Night” program. It also will recognize several UofL employees and community members who helped establish the program.

Take Back the Night, an event that includes a vigil and march, is designed to draw attention to the problem of violence against women. It is one example of the work PEACC has done since it started in 1999 with funding from the Department of Justice Violence Against Women on Campus program.

It was the first campus-based violence and prevention program in the state, according to Mary Karen Powers and Joni Jenkins. Powers was the principal investigator for the grant; Jenkins, a state representative, was the first director.

Starting PEACC “was a very proactive step,” said Powers, noting that no specific incident triggered the need for the program. Instead, UofL recognized the need because research indicated that one in four college women may be victims of violence.

When grant funding ended, UofL decided to keep the program and made it part of Campus Health Services in 2007. This move facilitated a change to a public health focus on violence prevention and PEACC expanded its mission, said Sharon LaRue, PEACC director since 2002.

“We’re training future generations how to critically think about this issue,” she said.

LaRue and others note that PEACC’s biggest accomplishment in the last 10 years has been changing the culture on college campuses.

PEACC leaders and advocates gathered in the spring to develop a new mission for the organization to guide into the next 10 years. That new mission heavily incorporates UofL’s commitment to Ideas 2 Action, the program to develop students’ critical thinking skills. The statement calls for the group to empower students to develop the skills needed to build resiliency within their interpersonal relationships and social interactions, and to mobilize students to create their own safe and healthy campus community. Plans are to incorporate arts into the program as means of student self expression and self-reflection.

“We know that students can be resilient if we help them develop the necessary skills,” LaRue said. “So, in true prevention, we need to be teaching students how to critically think about these issues. PEACC helps students develop proactive skills in interpersonal relationships, self-reflection and creating social change. We help them develop reactive skills so if they do encounter a high-risk situation they can be prepared - not just for themselves but for others.”

This new commitment expands on many of the successful programs and initiatives PEACC has been involved with since 1999 in aiding victims and focusing on prevention. PEACC has helped as many as 60 victims each year and has shared its message with thousands of students, faculty and staff though programming, class visits and its website.

“Every year, you take it a little farther; more students get involved in violence prevention,” LaRue said.

Past accomplishments for the group have included:

  • Working with the UofL Police Department and the UofL Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Nurse Program to create and implement a written protocol for responding to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence and working with officers as part of a sexual assault response team. The partnership between ULPD and PEACC has been positive for UofL students, faculty and staff, said Chief Wayne Hall, noting that the partnership and its educational programs have led to a lower number of sexual assault cases at UofL than at other universities.
  • Being host to such events as Take Back the Night, the clothesline project and a production of the “Vagina Monologues,” to help draw attention to PEACC’s goals. At these events, LaRue a licensed art therapist, has used arts as activism projects to create conversation, connection and community building. Past projects have included murals, affirmation dolls and peace doves. This year’s TBTN will feature a community art project that uses recycled materials to create a 10th anniversary mural.

The campus community also has found a variety of ways to help PEACC spread the message of violence prevention. Faculty and staff have been encouraged to place PEACC posters on their doors as way to let know students know the locations are safe places they can come to for help. Students also have volunteered to help with projects.

Male students also have joined Men of PEACC, a volunteer group that encourages men to foster positive relationships with women and not to be perpetrators of violence. That group is in the process of becoming a registered student organization.

“We’ve done research that shows that 17 percent of men are the perpetrators of violence,” said Men of PEACC coordinator Will Baumgardner. “The other 83 percent of us want to respect our partner’s wishes and be good men. Seventeen percent are giving us a bad name. We want to empower the other 83 percent to do something good. We want our actions to speak louder than that 17 percent.”

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