By Haley Costen
With colleges across the country igniting conversations about sexual assault, stalking, and violence after a tide of recent government initiatives, it’s only fitting that Simmons has taken action as well.
A year after drafting a proposal and working with President Helen Drinan and Sarah Neill, Dean of Student Life, Gina Capra became the new Violence Prevention and Educational Outreach Program Coordinator.
Between figuring out the logistics of her new position, transitioning into her new office, and finding her replacement in the office of student life, it’s been a busy few weeks for Capra. Yet, she remains positive, smiling and speaking animatedly about her upcoming projects.
“I cannot wait to get downstairs and get going on this stuff,” she said with a smile before launching into an overview of her position.
One goal Capra is excited about is creating programs and increasing awareness about consensual sex, and the sexual misconduct policies of the college.
“We’ll be doing a lot of education to make sure students really know what those policies are, and what rights they have on campus, and what resources are available to them.”
Capra stressed that the college will work with students whether a crime occurred on or off campus, or whether the alleged perpetrator attends Simmons, another COF school or not.
Along with overseeing the Clothesline Project in November, collaborating on Take Back the Night in April, and teaming up with Betsey’s friends, as well as collaborating with the Vagina Monologues, she will be creating programs that focus on consent.
One of Capra’s biggest goals is to increase awareness of bystander intervention, which is when a witness to a dangerous situation can intervene or call for help before the situation escalates. Capra says that 44 percent of crimes are likely to be de-escalated if someone intervenes. The problem is that the more people who witness something happening, the less people will interfere because they assume someone else will do something.
Another goal of Capra’s is to eliminate rape culture on campus.
“We’re not immune to having rape culture as part of our culture,” Capra said about women’s colleges. “We’re not immune to having sexual assault on our campuses, or dating violence. And I think it’s important for people to recognize that while [Simmons’] numbers aren’t as high as some other schools, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen here and we need to take it seriously.”
Her new office, W-002, will be a spot where students can visit for resources or talk about their experiences. Capra will be connecting students with the Simmons Title IX Coordinator, Regina Sherwood, and the Title IX Deputy Coordinator, Sarah Neill. Title IX Coordinators manage investigations on campus.
“I’ll be a touch point for students who are in a relationship that’s not comfortable or dangerous, to talk about what their options are, and supporting them in their decisions, whatever way they decide to go.”
Capra will be reaching out not only to traditional undergraduate students, but Dix Scholars, commuters, and graduate students. She also thinks it’s important to engage the men on campus as well as the LGBT community.
“We’re really trying to meet our students where they’re at in all senses,” Capra said.
Capra will be working closely with the Health Education Office, Public Safety and Student Life and Residence Life. She plans to have programs on the academic campus and residence campus.
The Center will also be working with outside resources like the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center.
Capra has previously worked with and continues to work closely with Futures Without Violence. She is from Portland, Maine and has previous college education experience, as well as experience as a domestic violence liaison. She has also worked in a safe house, and with incarcerated women in prison and in jail, creating safe options for them after their release and educating them in domestic violence and sexual assault.
She also completed the 40-hour Boston Area Rape Crisis training, so she is trained in the same way the organization’s staff is trained and will be able to do the work at Simmons.
Capra is also a student in the Master of Science and Management program with a nonprofit focus.