At least 65 attended Concho Valley Rape Crisis Center’s first LEAD Conference

The Concho Valley Rape Crisis Center held its first LEAD Conference Saturday at Stephens Central Library, where at least 65 people participated.

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LEAD stands for Leadership, Equity, Acceptance and Diversity and the event explored the root causes and prevention of sexual violence, as well as the creation of safe learning environments, according to a release issued by CVRCC.

Crystal Garcia-Ward, Director of Community Education for the Concho Valley Rape Crisis Center said that this was the center’s first conference where their intention was to bring together student leaders from Park University, Howard College, Good Fellow Air Force Base and Angelo State University to learn about how they could be better leaders in their environments, to make campuses more safe and equitable and prevent sexual assault.

“Sexual violence has spiraled out of control. It’s estimated that one in five young women will be assaulted during her time in college. This conference and the conversations it will initiate are more important than ever,” said Garcia-Ward prior to the event.

Keynote speaker Angela Shaffer who teaches at Texas Tech University opened up the conference in the morning with a history of sexism and how it affects the community as a whole, followed by a peer-led facilitation where all the teaching throughout the day was done by peers and students sharing their stories and experiences where other students could interact, talk and share their views in return. Breakfast was provided by the Area Health Education Center and lunch was provided by HEB, the Student Social Workers Association and Phi Alpha Honor Society.

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“We covered a wide array of topics, we had survivors sharing their stories, we had a big group discussion on consent; where we learn consent, how we use it and what we can do to get better at having those conversations and respecting our partners and have healthier relationships with the people around us,” Garcia-Ward said. “We talked about women in STEM fields, the breaking of gender norms, gender inequities, sexism and discrimination as a whole and how that fuels a culture that allows sexual assault to continue and how we don’t hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.”

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Garcia-Ward said the CVRCC is planning on having the event again next year and that they are hoping to make it an annual event.

“We got great feedback from the students and they want more. Even to continue these conversations throughout the year and help them understand what they can do for other students and how to talk to them and make decisions on campus that improves the environment and not just preventing sexual assault one crime at a time but really making a change in the community level that empowers all of us to have healthier relationships, more empathy and positive regards for people, is very essential,” she said. “These are really the root causes for sexual violence; not what someone is wearing, how they act or what they do. We try to empower the community as a whole to talk more about rape culture and how that affects us and what we can do to prevent rape from happening.”

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Among the at least 65 people attending the event Saturday was ASU student and member of He for She gender equality organization at ASU, Zoe Gibbons. She said that she heard about the conference through He for She who works closely with CVRCC.

“I absolutely loved this conference. I think it is awesome to have this safe space to where we can have these conversations and learn from our different opinions and experiences so we can go out into our organizations, our communities and school districts and take this information to teach others,” Gibbons said.

“We become better leaders and better people by learning through others. It is very important for us to have these conferences so that we can continue to talk about these prevalent issues in society. If the conversations stop then nothing will be done so it is very vital to impacting and initiating change to keep having these conversations. I would recommend this event to everyone. I think everyone should experience this.”

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The 65 people who registered and stayed for the duration at the event received a certificate in Leadership Education.

The CVRCC is a non-profit agency providing victim advocacy and prevention education to the 170,000 residents of Tom Green County and its ten surrounding areas.

For more information about the services CVRCC provides, go to cv-rcc.org.