Project SAFE hosts Empowerment Week

Campus Dining staff wearing their purple tie-dye shirts to show support for survivors of intimate partner violence in the Marketplace at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. Annie Dolan/The Occidental

Project SAFE hosted Empowerment Week Oct. 21–25, organizing community gardening events in the Food, Energy and Sustainability Team (FEAST) garden, tie-dying shirts on the quad, presenting speakers and hosting workshops. According to Ellen Urtecho, masters of social work intern for Project SAFE, the week was intended to educate students on domestic and intimate partner violence and make Project SAFE known as a resource for students. Empowerment Week is one of Project SAFE’s largest events every year, according to Junko Anderson (junior), a Project SAFE programming assistant. Empowerment Week is part of domestic and intimate partner violence month, according to Anderson.

Marianne Frapwell, senior manager and survivor advocate for Project SAFE, said Empowerment Week is an opportunity to bring attention to red flags and signs of unhealthy or dangerous partner dynamics.

“Empowerment Week is an important time to intentionally focus on fostering healthy relationships, creating spaces for healing for survivors of intimate partner violence, and raise awareness about the supports and resources available to students around this issue,” Frapwell said via email.

Some students tie-dye t-shirts with Project SAFE in the Academic Quad during Empowerment Week at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. Annie Dolan/The Occidental

As part of Empowerment Week, Project SAFE invited artist Mike Davis, also known as Hood Profet, to speak, lead a workshop and host an open mic at the Intercultural Community Center (ICC), according to Frapwell. Davis’ art focuses on the experience of being a non-binary, queer poet of color in Los Angeles, according to Frapwell. The workshop was in collaboration with the ICC, Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC), Diversity and Equity Board (DEB) and Residential Education & Housing Services (REHS), according to Anderson.

“Mike’s a very powerful speaker, and they shared a lot of amazing stuff, and students also shared a lot of amazing stuff, so that was definitely a highlight,” Anderson said.

The week’s events began and ended in FEAST garden with painting pots and gardening in order to create a calm space for people affected by domestic and intimate partner violence to reflect on the week and actively heal, according to Urtecho.

“The whole idea [behind gardening in FEAST] was to have a space to regroup, heal and just unwind,” Anderson said. “It very much created a sense of community, and everyone got to take home a cute little succulent.”

Program Coordinator and Prevention Education Specialist for Project SAFE Tirzah Blanche tables in the Academic Quad at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. Annie Dolan/The Occidental

Anderson said it is especially important for events like these to take place on college campuses because they call attention to issues often overlooked by students.

“There’s this misconception that domestic violence and intimate partner violence only affects older couples that live together,” Anderson said. “At our age, we can fall into these dynamics, and we can be in these unhealthy relationships. We want to let people know that if they’re going through something like that, it is completely legitimate and real and the supports are there for you.”

Educating students on how to recognize these unhealthy relationships is one of the crucial goals of Project SAFE and Empowerment Week, according to Urtecho.

“The purpose of us facilitating conversations around these issues is so that people have a better understanding of identifying what it means to witness, or be a part of, an intimate partner violence relationship,” Urtecho said. “And, if wanted or needed, reach out to our office or to outside resources to get more information or possibly help in this area.”

Project SAFE handed out purple ribbons to raise awareness and support for intimate partner violence during Empowerment Week in the Academic Quad at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. Annie Dolan/The Occidental

Anderson joined Project SAFE his sophomore year and is the only returning programming advisor working in the Project SAFE office this semester.

“Being in this office and educating others is also a process of educating myself and developing skills to be a better person, be a better friend, be a better partner,” Anderson said. “In our age group, we’re all a bunch of idiots trying to stumble through life, and the least I can do is learn a little more to support other people.”

The next major event planned for Project SAFE is Take Back the Week in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, according to Frapwell. However, Anderson said Project SAFE is always open to ideas from the student body and is working to develop smaller events to fill the time between October and April.