URI student athletes, R.I. Coalition Against Domestic Violence team up for month long awareness campaign

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KINGSTON, R.I. – October 21, 2015 – According to the Justice Department, one in five women is sexually assaulted and one in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. The startling statistics have caught the eyes of politicians, celebrities, professors, and now University of Rhode Island student-athletes.

To spread the word, and in recognition of national Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV) has launched a statewide public awareness campaign, “Get Off the Bench!” featuring some of URI’s very own athletes.

“For too long, our culture has normalized viewing domestic violence as a private relationship matter or family problem rather than the community health epidemic we know it to be,” said RICADV Executive Director Deborah DeBare. “Our public awareness campaign features URI student athletes speaking out against domestic violence and telling their fellow Rhode Islanders that it is time for them to do the same. This year, the campaign specifically targets the athletic community and college campuses as a way to urge people in Rhode Island to ‘get off the bench’ – because domestic violence impacts all of us, and it will take all of us, together, to end it.”

The month-long campaign includes outdoor advertising on buses and billboards throughout the state, as well as public service announcements on television, radio and Pandora.

Many of the URI athletes who participated in this year’s campaign also belong to the URi-STANDers Bystander Intervention Program, whose mission is to provide education and awareness to the URI campus community regarding sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking, as well as to promote action to prevent these crimes.

The group grew out of the Peer Advocates program at the URI Women’s Center, founded in 2001 by Keith Labelle. Labelle now serves as the supervisor of the Bystander Intervention Program and the URi-STANDers internship group.

“Our program seeks to create an ongoing conversation about changing the culture on our campus as it relates to the pervasive sexual violence that occurs on a national level and I think we are doing that. We’ve received both national and international recognition, and schools across the country are looking to replicate the i-STAND program URI has created,” said Labelle.

Seventeen students are URi-STANDers, and during the past 10 years, 250 students have interned with him.

“These issues are far more prevalent than I ever thought, and I understand how important it is that we make people aware of them and educate students on them. I am proud to be a part of the program,” said John Greenhalgh, a senior history major, mathematics minor from Chepachet, R.I. who plays on the football team.

The team consists of trained students who create and perform interactive bystander intervention workshops and programs to educate and increase domestic and sexual violence awareness campus-wide.

“Before I became a URI stander, I never thought that people from such different backgrounds and social groups could come together and make this much of an impact. I have seen people who may have never met before come together to make as much of a change as possible,” said Madison Goguen, a junior health studies major from Mattapoisett, Mass.

Members of the program promise not to be a bystander to domestic violence, but to be a part of the solution. Like the RICADV’s new public service announcements featuring URI student athletes state, “Saying something is easier than you may think.”

“I really believe in all the values that the URi-STANDers stand for, so why not join them and help spread the word,” said Danielle Gariglio a junior journalism major from Long Island, N.Y. who also plays on the URI softball team.

“Until the number of sexual assaults on college campuses goes from 1 in 5 to zero, we haven’t done enough. We need to continue to educate all students across our campus. Our student athletes have a really great knowledge on these issues, but we need to reach out to the rest of the URI student body. We can’t just do the right thing when we’re under the spotlight; we have to just do the right thing all the time.” Gariglio said.

The campaign stems from a partnership between the RICADV and Learfield Sports’ Rhody Sports Properties (RSP), the exclusive multimedia rights holder for URI athletics and The Thomas M. Ryan Center.

“We are proud to establish this relationship with the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence and participate in raising awareness for the local community regarding this very important issue. Even more special was the opportunity to utilize our student athletes to help spread the message of this program across campus, and more importantly, the entire state,” said Vanessa Farinelli, Manager of Business Development for RSP.

Rhody Sports Properties, is a property of Learfield Sports, which manages multimedia rights and sponsorship for nearly 120 collegiate properties. For more information about its history, collegiate portfolio, owned and operated businesses and job opportunities, visit Learfield Sports.

The RICADV is an organization dedicated to ending domestic violence by supporting the six domestic violence agencies in Rhode Island, striving to create justice for victims, and raising awareness on the issue of domestic violence. If you or anyone you know is in need of help, the 24-hour statewide Helpline can be reached at 1-800-494-8100.

Pictured above

URI students from left are shown in advertisement to promote domestic violence awareness, Jordan Sebastian: Football, Tyler Catalina: Football, Ari Stanton: Soccer, Caitlin Kennedy: Softball.

Image courtesy of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence

This release was written by Caitlin Musselman, a URI Marketing and Communications intern and a public relations and political science major.