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On March 28, Emory held its second RespectCon, a convention dedicated to help rid campuses of sexual violence. RespectCon brings together students, activists and professionals to discuss sexual violence and the different ways people are working to change views on rape culture and engage students in active sexual assault prevention.

“Sexual violence is a pervasive public health issue on college campuses, including at Emory,” said Lauren (LB) Bernstein, assistant director of the Respect Program.

Bernstein, along with Health Promotion Specialist for the Respect Program Drew Rizzo, supervised the event. RespectCon Senior Coordinator Samira Chowdhury (’15PH) and RespectCon Co-Coordinators Nowmee Shehab (’16C), Siqi Huang (’16C) and Jennifer Hallaman (’14C) also aided in the planning and execution of the event.

This year, an inaugural national summit was hosted the day before RespectCon for directors of sexual violence preventions programs on college campuses. During this summit, 45 professionals from 26 different campuses gathered before the main conference the following day. During the main summit, over 100 attendees from 29 institutions or organizations and 16 states came together for a series of presentations and discussions centered on sexual violence prevention.

On Friday, professionals from universities across the country led discussions and presentations from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on topics ranging from “Addressing Rape Culture With a More Inclusive Lens” to “Saying Yes for All the Right Reasons” to “Engaging Men: No Shave November.”

These programs were primarily focused on teaching attendees how to find and use their voice in the dialogue against sexual violence. To end the day, a closing ceremony was held that asked attendees to imagine a campus free of sexual violence and to think of ways in which each person could help achieve that goal.

Though this year’s RespectCon was a success, Bernstein hopes that next year’s convention will see more attendees. She hopes that the connections forged at the convention create a community dedicated to cultivating strategies to prevent sexual violence on college campuses.

Many believe that Bernstein’s goals have already started to be accomplished, according to College junior and President of Sexual Assault Peer Advocates (SAPA) Elizabeth Neyman, who attended the event.

In SAPA, Neyman works with other students who are trained in how to help and what to say to sexual assault survivors. The collaboration between SAPA and the Respect Program – and the mutual support of such functions as RespectCon – is something she hopes will help bring awareness to students about sexual violence on college campuses.

“Friday’s RespectCon left me with contacts from whom I will receive sources and presentations in addition to promises to share best practices amongst students and campus professionals,” she said.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, you have support at Emory. Please contact Lauren (LB) Bernstein, assistant director for the Respect Program at 404.727.1514 or [email protected] for confidential support. 

You can also learn more about the Respect Program at http://respect.emory.edu.

– Jayme Smith