By Katie Sittig-Boyd
The second annual Love Fest, a Healthy Relationship and Sexuality Fair, was held this past Thursday, April 21, on the academic campus quad. Hosted jointly by the Violence Prevention and Educational Outreach Program and the Health, Wellness, and Recreation Program, Love Fest provided the Simmons community with easily accessible and relevant information regarding domestic and dating violence, survivorship, and support for people of all identities and backgrounds.
Tables designed and staffed by student volunteers covered the quad. One table asked passersby to categorize various fictional relationships as “healthy,” “unhealthy,” or “abusive,” offering examples of behavior that might help identify relationship patterns in media. Some of these couples included Willow and Tara from the popular series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Edward and Bella from “Twilight,” and April and Andy from “Parks and Recreation.”
The goal of this table was to initiate meaningful dialogue about how fictional relationships can shape behavior in real-world situations, with both positive and negative effects.
Another table, staffed by student Hannah Schonenberg, offered resources for individuals wanting to support a friend or loved one, including materials on bystander intervention and warning signs.
“It’s a very important topic to talk about,” said Schonenberg. “I think the way the event is set up makes it more laid back, which makes it easier to discuss.”
Other tables included “Relationship Road,” at which a student volunteer quizzed eventgoers about how to approach a relationship or sexual experience with survivors, as well as a table about healthy breakups; a Dating Across Identities table; and a “make-your-own-date” table intended to introduce the possibility of non-sexual dating environments.
The tables were student-staffed and -designed. “I love that it’s creative and how the tables shape up,” said Gina Capra, director of VPEO and one of the primary organizers of Love Fest. “We let students choose topics meaningful to them, which I think keeps it relevant to our student community.”
The open nature of the event combined with the sunny, warm day drew students, faculty, and staff alike to the event. “It’s a great initiative to increase awareness around domestic violence and different issues relating to dating and sexual intimacy,” said senior Leila Bellou, who attended Love Fest for the first time this year.
Love Fest has been staffed entirely by members of the Simmons community for its past two years of existence, though anyone walking through the quad is welcome regardless of school.
When asked, students remarked that they were glad that the information was so openly accessible and relevant.
“Love Fest brings to light a lot of issues we don’t normally talk about in an inviting environment,” said junior Alexa Ochocki.
“It would be powerful at a co-ed school because boys also really need this information,” said Azeb Freitas, one of the students in attendance.
Last year, Love Fest was held in the Student Activities Center, and its move to the academic quad made it possible to grow significantly. Although VPEO is involved with several events throughout the year, Love Fest is the event that draws everyone together.
“There’s something magical about the day before when it’s all hands on deck,” Capra said. “It’s really the grand finale of the year.”