May 1, 2014

Collegiate Perspective: Women's Centers

Before this year, I knew little about what Women’s Centers do. Yes, I knew that they act as spaces primarily for women, and that there are certain resources that these centers provide for women. However, I was not sure exactly what these resources were, or how the Women’s Center could help me if I needed it. As an intern at the University of Virginia’s Women’s Center this year, I got a front row look at what women’s centers are capable of, and I had the wonderful opportunity to help promote the UVa Women’s Center at my school.

Just like women’s centers at most other colleges, the UVa Women’s Center provides a number of programs for girls, including Sexual and Domestic Violence Services, Counseling, Body Positive and the Young Women Leaders Program, among others. The Center also has an internship program, and there are interns for each of the aforementioned programs. I had the chance to work with the Marketing and Communications team, and was in charge of tweeting on behalf of the Center. Not only did I learn a lot about marketing, but I also got to see how these spaces, which are reserved solely for women, could provide support and comfort for women who need it.

On college campuses, there are very few resources just for women. Most clubs and organizations are open to both males and females, or have equivalent organizations for each sex (like sororities and fraternities). Women’s centers on college campuses provide an intimate environment for college women to receive counseling, hear lectures about prominent women’s issues, or learn how to give back to the community.

Despite the increased gender equality in the past half-century (many colleges didn't even admit women until a few decades ago!), it is still important that we remind ourselves of some of the issues that women deal with, whether on a daily basis, or in times of crisis. Our Women’s Center hosts several events per semester to raise questions and encourage discussion concerning important women’s issues (such as sexual assault in the military) and partners with other organizations on campus for larger events (like Take Back the Night, which occurred recently).

Besides organizing events, women’s centers can act as a support group for many women in times of need. Some of the interns this year were survivors of intimate partner violence or sexual assault, and they interned to give back to a community of women that had been there for them in the past. Hearing their stories of survival was very eye opening and showed me the value and importance of a support system like the Women’s Center during difficult times.

After spending countless hours at my university’s Women’s Center, I have witnessed how these places can not only support women in times of need, but also help them realize their full potential. Now that I am aware of the resources available to me, I would feel comfortable reaching out to the women who work at the Center for support, and I encourage others to take advantage of the resources at their respective schools as well!

Lindley Smith is a collegiate member at the University of Virginia (Zeta Iota). Read more about Lindley by clicking here.

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