“Educate, train, empower.” This is the motto of one of UNC’s newest female empowerment groups: Wonder Women.
The group, which focuses specifically on preventing sexual violence, will be hosting a series of workshops on Monday and Tuesday centered around understanding and preventing domestic violence.
Monday’s workshop, titled “Breaking the Silence,” will feature a speaker from the Compass Center for Women and Families, a local organization that provides support for those impacted by domestic violence.
The speaker, a survivor of domestic violence herself, will discuss how to help survivors of sexual assault and how to prevent it from happening. Attendees will help create care packages for the women served by the Compass Center.
“It’s a presentation to give folks the foundational information to understand what domestic violence is and to talk about the power and control tactics that abusers use to maintain the domestic violence,” Valerie Sauer, director of education programs at the Compass Center, said.
Titled “Empowering Yourself and Others,” Tuesday’s workshop features a discussion from UNC nurse practitioner Margaux Simon, who will explain how Campus Health can help survivors of sexual violence. The discussion will be followed by an introductory self-defense class.
“Unfortunately trauma, in its many forms, touches a lot of people's lives,” Simon said. “Being aware of how trauma may have affected your life can help you provide a better response to those around you.”
Olivia Proops started Wonder Women last semester after transferring from a small school in Philadelphia where women made up only 20 percent of the engineering program.
“I faced a lot of harassment and stalking and things like that because I was a woman in this environment that was predominantly male and my school didn't really do anything about it,” Proops said.
Proops said she took a self-defense class through UNC Police called Rape Aggression Defense. She said this and her own personal experiences with harassment inspired her to create Wonder Women.
“I knew that I wanted to do something to help women,” Proops said. “I think it’s ridiculous that people should feel scared when they’re trying to get their education.”
In addition to the workshops, Wonder Women has started a petition to have RAD added as a Lifetime Fitness or Physical Activities course at UNC for all genders. Proops said the current RAD program can only afford to teach 80 students per year due to space and faculty limitations, but making it an official class at UNC would make self-defense more accessible for students.
Proops said she hopes Wonder Women will continue to spread awareness on campus following her graduation this year. She said she even has plans to make Wonder Women an official nonprofit and establish chapters at other universities across the country.
“Sexual assault, sexual violence — this is a problem on every campus,” Proops said. “I know that I am personally going to be carrying on Wonder Women wherever I go.”
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