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Pledge to respect one's body kicks off annual women's week

The unusually strong October sun that shone down on the Main Green Wednesday mirrored the enthusiasm of resident Women Peer Counselors as they started the first day of their annual women's week. The WPCs, with Students for Choice and Brown Health Services, were observing national "Love Your Body Day" by creating awareness of body image issues.

Women's Week events sponsored by the WPCs will continue until Wednesday. The week also coincides with national Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which the Sarah Doyle Women's Center has observed with lectures, movies and other events and plans to extend into early next month.

Women's Week is an opportunity for WPCs, who live in first-year units, to offer their knowledge and advice on a range of topics to all students — including sexism, contraception, safe sex and healthy relationships — said Zoe Stephenson '12, a WPC in Perkins Hall.

The body image "declaration of independence" was one of the main attractions at a booth staffed by WPCs Wednesday. The declaration, which was a written promise to respect and take care of one's body, was signed by students in large numbers.

"I made sign-up sheets, and I thought I put way more than we needed, but we're on our last one," Stephenson said during the last half-hour of the event. After signing the pledge, students were given a white bracelet made of string to serve as a reminder of their promise to protect their bodies.

"I'm shocked about the amount of people who signed the pledge with enthusiasm," said Tashyana Thompson '12, another WPC. "It really shows how much people appreciate themselves and what the W's are doing on campus."

The enthusiasm among students that Thompson mentioned was perhaps a reflection of the WPCs' own passion and zest, said Allison Iarocci '13. "It was hard to resist signing the pledge with the excitement and support of the WPCs shouting ‘Love your body!' across the Main Green," she said.

This declaration is an important part of the idea behind Women's Week because of the importance of self-esteem,  said WPC Simren Kanwal '12.

"It's really important for everyone to have a good body image," she said.

"I'm hoping that Women's Week gets people to think about important issues that a lot of people wouldn't think about on their own," Stephenson added. "And there's a lot of issues."
Future events during the week include movies, lectures on subjects such as women in male-dominated fields and hands-on activities such as a self-defense workshop co-sponsored by the Department of Public Safety and the Sarah Doyle Women's Center.

In addition to helping the WPCs organize the self-defense workshop, the women's center is making an effort to honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Though the center is organizationally separate from the WPC program, the two groups share and support similar causes, said Veronica Lowe '10, the publicity coordinator for the women's center.

Throughout October, the center has hosted movies and panel discussions to raise awareness about domestic violence. Daniela Rodriguez DS '10, the center's coordinator for the Coalition Against Relationship Abuse, emphasized the importance of the awareness month.

"The complexity and frequency of relationship abuse is still unknown to many," she said. "With the odds of one in three relationships turning abusive at some point, this is a pervasive problem that very few people are aware of."

Lowe said domestic violence happens on campus, too. "I would like people, even if they don't go to the events themselves, if they just hear of the events, to be aware that domestic violence happens on campus," she said.

One of the Sarah Doyle Women's Center's events is a screening of the film "Hush," scheduled for Nov. 5. Made by three Brown students in the fall of 2007, the documentary portrays domestic violence on Brown's campus, featuring two students' stories of sexual assault.

Lowe said she did not know that domestic violence happened on campus before she became involved in Sarah Doyle activities.

"I had the perception that we're at Brown — we have the happiest students in the U.S., according to the rankings," she said. "Domestic violence wasn't even a thought in my mind."

Rodriguez DS said the center's goal was not only to spread awareness about domestic violence on campus, but also to provide students with resources to "combat relationship abuse."

"Through diverse events like film series, discussion panels and self-defense workshops, we seek to provide students with the language and understanding that will allow them to help a friend, or themselves," she said.



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