To the University Community:

University of Virginia students, faculty, staff, and alumni are voicing their deep commitment to a seismic shift in the culture. The Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center firmly believes that the University—which means all of us— can create this change. Please read the Center’s Statement on Sexual Violence at the University of Virginia on our website.

Next Steps

The Women’s Center’s work continues—and has intensified–but we are buoyed by a groundswell of support from across the University community. Here are our requests:

Listen: We ask you to join us in keeping survivors at the center of our efforts to create change. Survivors have expressed to Center staff that they would like to lend their insights to the current active dialogue on Grounds, but that attending and speaking at meetings is not an option for some of them. In response to this need, the Women’s Center has provided a platform to help ensure that these valuable contributions to the University community’s conversation can be made even by individuals for whom it is important to remain anonymous.

UPDATE: Visit this link to submit your comments. Please note: There is a 100-word limit, not a 100-character limit for each comment. These anonymous comments will be moderated on a weekly basis by counselors at the Women’s Center prior to being published online.

In addition, when survivors of sexual assault speak about their experiences, listen. Many of us feel shame and anger at being part of a university spotlighted for rape and unpunished perpetrators. It can be especially painful to listen to survivors who are part of our community tell their own stories. Know that it is an honor to hear them.

Support: Even more students are seeking counseling. We are encouraged by the announcement from President Sullivan that the University will fund an additional Trauma Counselor at the Women’s Center. We are grateful to the students, staff, and faculty who requested this much-needed addition. By the spring semester, with further support from the Vice President for Student Affairs and the Office of the Provost, Counseling Services will be able to provide confidential groups for student survivors as well as separate groups for faculty and staff survivors.

UPDATE: Through the Office of the Provost, the Women’s Center has also recently received funding for an education outreach/prevention specialist for the Gender Violence and Social Change program, as well as a full-time counselor in residence with experience in trauma.

Please help us ensure that we are reaching members of the University community who wish to be part of the Center’s efforts. Help us to reach out to those who are not aware of Women’s Center programs that may be of real value to them. Our doors are open for those who are eager to create change, for those who are seeking help, for those seeking mentoring and support, and for those who need a spot to sit quietly or a space to meet privately with a few others.

Educate: The core of the University is the drive to learn. We are hearing from faculty, staff, alumni, and especially students who have learned just enough about the challenges we face to know that they need more information.

To support the lasting, meaningful change in culture for which the University community is calling, the Women’s Center is organizing an ongoing forum made up of a series of talks in which leaders with different areas of expertise will speak to faculty, students, staff and friends and respond to their questions. Together we can dismantle the power of topics to confound us and constrain our ability to achieve progress: law, regulation and policy, masculinity, “rape culture.”

Our series will begin this Friday, December 5, with a workshop:  “Demystify and declare!   How to examine a policy document to make your opinion of it count” led by Professor Deena Hurwitz from the Law School. (Brown Bag Session in the Commonwealth Room, Newcomb Hall, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.) We are hearing from members of the University community who want to respond to the call for comments on the proposed new Sexual Misconduct Policy but find reading a policy document daunting. On Friday, with Deena Hurwitz as our guide, we’ll discuss ways to make policy legislation make sense in plain English and to formulate constructive responses, so that participants will leave ready to read and respond to the proposed Sexual Misconduct Policy document by the December 20 deadline.

Communicate: We receive updates about the steps being taken in various schools and departments. In a decentralized university, we need to take extra steps to learn from each other. We will work to share information about your events and initiatives through our communication channels. The English Department, for instance, held a Teach In before Thanksgiving break that was as informative as it was moving. The Engineering School has created a thorough plan for education of its faculty and staff, which includes the Center’s Survivor Support Network Training to help faculty know more about how best to respond to survivors. By sharing your initiatives, you can encourage others. And as you take part in the Green Dot training, tell others about it.

Synthesize: As an institution with egalitarian ideals, the University needs to recognize both the plain truths that its members are experiencing and the complexities of a living, breathing community that is inextricably linked to the wider world. Let us resist insularity. We need to open our doors and minds to those outside Grounds who can help us make the radical shifts in culture needed at our University.

At the same time, the Women’s Center will continue to shine a light on the personal experiences and astute observations that University of Virginia faculty, staff, alumni, and students can offer each other. Among us we have some of the sharpest minds and finest communicators we could hope to find, who can illuminate the often unseen structures that shape what’s possible, that inform our actions, and that gauge our progress. In solidarity we find strength.

A Final Note:

In light of the strain felt recently by so many members of the University community, we are sharing a brief document to provide a framework for understanding how people respond to traumatic events. This document can be accessed from the Counseling Services page of our website. Lastly, one of our major partners in providing services to students is Student Health. Please view this video from Dr. Tim Davis, director of Counseling and Psychological Services, who offers thoughts on how students can be supportive of one another.