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The Impact of Trauma

Over the years, we have learned more and more about how traumatic events impacts survivors, both during the violence itself and in the aftermath. For a long time, we believed that the effects were primarily psychological, which they are, but there’s more to it than that. Now we know that trauma impacts the brain in biochemical and structural ways, depending on when the violence occurs in the lifespan, whether it is repeated, and how severe it is.

The neurobiology of trauma is a whole science unto itself, and our increasing understanding of this issue has influenced every aspect of how victim advocates, criminal justice professionals, therapists, college administrators, and legislators address these issues.

Supporting a Survivor

This section will help you understand and recognize common reactions to trauma among survivors of gender-based violence. Understanding these responses will help you to be supportive of someone’s healing process. It is important to remember that you should also practice “self-care” when supporting a friend or partner. The related resources page outlines programs and offices on and off UVA's grounds that are not only helpful for survivors, but also for you as a supporter.

People differ on what terms they prefer, victim or survivor, and want to clarify our use here. We use the word “survivor” in this section to emphasize that a person has agency in their healing, and that it is a difficult and ongoing process. We use “victim” in the context of talking about criminal justice or someone who is actively experiencing abuse or violence.


Creating a Safety Plan

Why Do I Need a Safety Plan?

If you are in a relationship that is unhealthy, it is important for you to know that the abuse is not your fault. It is also important for you to start thinking about ways to keep yourself safe, whether or not you decide to stay in that relationship. You cannot control your partner’s abusive behavior, but you can take specific action to keep yourself safe.

A safety plan is a guide that helps you lower your risk of being hurt by your abuser. The information is specific to you and your life and can help you think through lifestyle changes. 

How do I create a plan?

A couple of issues to consider:

When you or someone you care about has experienced gender-based violence, you have options for where to seek information and support. Our staff has prepared the pages in this section of our site to share what they've found to be useful for many people. Navigating these pages will help you get familiar with essential information and will point you toward good sources for ongoing support and further information related to sexual assualt, intimate partner violence, stalking, or harassment. 

Interns on this team support the Engaged Scholarship efforts of the Women’s Center. They contribute to the Program Director’s outreach efforts in the UVA and Charlottesville community. Interns who work on this team play an important role in planning and executing existing initiatives as well as finding new ways to bring about inclusive engagement of interns and other students at the Women Center.


Typical Activities for Interns on this team

Interns on the Engaged Scholarship Team work in areas like these:

  • Collaborating with community partners 
  • Developing and implementing community service opportunities
  • Contributing to a blog or podcast series
  • Supporting the research interests of the program director regarding social justice issues
  • Annual events including Earth Day programing, International Women's Month, and Black Womanhood in College Workshop



Typical Activities for Interns on this team

Interns on this team maintain, expand, and analyze the effectiveness of the Women’s Center’s social media presence. They curate relevant content from around Grounds, the Charlottesville area, and the Web, as well as implementing publicity campaigns for Women’s Center events and initiatives. Summer extensions of this academic year internship are possible. Interns who bring personal connections that can help the Women’s Center reach the full breadth of schools and student groups at UVA are encouraged to apply.

Interning at the Women’s Center gives students hands-on experience developing skills that will be useful to them in the wide variety of fields they pursue after graduation. Social Media Marketing interns learn highly valuable skills that directly connect with job requirements in our digital age.

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The Legal Clinic offers professional, pro-bono legal advice to Charlottesville community members every month, regarding such topics as landlord disputes and family law. The clinic is offered every second and fourth Wednesday of each month. To schedule an appointment, you can do one of the following: please

Someone will respond within 24 hours to answer your questions or help schedule your appointment. 

Interns and Gender Violence and Social Change staff collaborate with UVA students, faculty, administrators, staff, and organizations to foster non-violent, healthy relationships across Grounds. To build a University community free of violence and abuse, our Gender Violence and Social Change team provide advocacy to survivors of gender violence at the University, engage in scholarship and research on these issues, and train University employees on their roles as mandated reporters and allies through the Survivor Support Network Training.

Iris Magazine is the Center’s award-winning, nationally acclaimed magazine for thinking young women at UVA and beyond. After trying on several looks—from a photocopied newsletter for the UVA Women’s Studies Program to a national journal for women — In 2012, Iris re-debuted as a web magazine for and about thinking young women.

After 35 years of publication, Iris continues to celebrate and empower young women through provocative pieces. The mission of Iris is not only to showcase women’s achievements at the University, in support of the women’s community and in conjunction with the Center’s mission to create change, but to also underscore the relevance of women’s issues.

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Our Body Positive team envisions a body positive community at UVA where everyone enjoys a healthy relationship with food, exercise, and body image. Through partnerships with organizations across Grounds we work to provide resources and create awareness about these issues, as well as offer support to those affected. Many students are affected by body image issues that make it more difficult for them to make the most of their college experience. We strive to change that.

“We are pleased that the UVA Women’s Center is one of our NEDA partners. Their Body Positive program is an innovative program appropriate for all college campuses. It connects students, staff and faculty to share information that is critical to the healthy adjustment of college students.”

Robbie Munn, Past Board Chair of the National Eating Disorders Association


The Women’s Center’s internship program is a selective engaged scholarship opportunity in social justice advocacy. In this learning and leadership opportunity, classroom study is combined with working on one of several teams at the Women’s Center under the guidance of a member of our staff. The practical experience that our interns gain during the academic year provides a context in which they can better understand their coursework and a foundation upon which they can build careers in a variety of fields.