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PARC open house welcomes students and advocates

The Prevention, Advocacy and Resource Center (PARC), which consolidated the Office of Prevention Services (OPS) and the Rape Crisis Center (RCC) into one office, held an open house on Tuesday, Oct. 2. PARC’s mission is to provide education, empowerment and support for members of the Brandeis community who have faced sexual assault or harassment, domestic violence or stalking.

The consolidation and name change came about to unify the prevention and advocacy services and allow them to better inform one another. PARC includes two full-time staff members, Sarah Berg and Vilma Uribe, six student staff members and about 15 student volunteers.

Berg, who joined Brandeis in January, is PARC’s director. She heard from students outside the OPS and RCC that “it was confusing having multiple names for a service that was really intertwined,” she said in an interview with The Brandeis Hoot. This became a barrier to getting help or learning more. For the RCC in particular, “the word ‘rape’ was intimidating for folks. There were a lot of people who could have used our support who didn’t identify as having been raped… the word ‘crisis’ had the same connotation.”

Now, PARC is more focused on “what we’re doing and what we hope to achieve, rather than what we’re working in response to… not making it about the violence, instead making it about how we choose to respond to the violence,” Berg told The Hoot.

Despite much positive feedback from students and faculty, Berg did note that she has received some criticism that the new name is “sanitizing the issue.”

Uribe, PARC’s survivor advocate and empowerment specialist, joined Brandeis this August. She has been working in the Boston area for the past seven years, most recently in a transitional housing program for survivors of domestic violence. She described that work as a little disheartening and is glad to be around the energized and motivated Brandeis student body.

At PARC, Uribe works with students who have been impacted by violence. This could entail helping students navigate the various resources available to them or just talking with students who come into the office.

She echoed Berg’s support of the combination of prevention and advocacy, telling The Hoot that it’s “pretty cool to see the cross-pollination of the work being done.”

PARC also has three student staff workers each in advocacy and prevention and a handful of student volunteers between the two. Advocacy student volunteers lead Bystander Trainings for students, which are mandatory for club leaders.

PARC staff is trying to improve their presence on campus and make their office more easily accessible. They are putting up new signs in Usdan to direct visitors and are replacing all the signs in bathrooms across campus to reflect their name change. The goal for both Berg and Uribe is to make students feel safe reaching out to PARC.

“Anyone can come in—you don’t have to experience something, you don’t have to have experienced something recently; you’re worried about a friend or you just have questions about the issue,” Berg said. “We’re trying to be more accessible.”

The open house was held in the Winer Lobby outside the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC), which is around the corner from PARC’s office in Usdan 108. PARC staff members held the event to answer questions and talk to students about getting involved and offered free cake or ice cream to anyone who dropped by.

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