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Photo: Guyrandy Jean-GIlles

Penn Violence Prevention is adding a new resource to its list of programs designed to combat sexual violence on campus.

This year, PVP launched the Anti-Violence Engagement Network, which enlists student groups on campus to help improve Penn's culture toward sexual assault prevention. 

Director of Sexual Violence Prevention Jessica Mertz said the organization wanted to interact more with student groups that may already be interested in addressing sexual assault within the Penn community.

For over two years, PVP has been overseeing the Penn Anti-Violence Educators program, which trains students to run workshops for their peers on the role bystanders can play in preventing instances of sexual and relationship violence. Mertz said AVEN was designed to add to existing resources like PAVE. 

"Doing that one presentation or having that one workshop never really felt like enough," she said.

In order for student groups to be accepted into the network, they must undergo a series of six steps, starting with appointing a group liaison and connecting to a PVP staff member.  According to the website, other steps include educating members, promoting sexual-violence-awareness events and including an anti-violence statement in the group's constitution.

At the end of each academic year, PVP plans on publishing a list of groups that are a part of AVEN and hosting an event honoring those groups.

Mertz said PVP is currently working on recruiting student organizations and has already partnered with groups such as Penn Democrats, Sigma Nu and Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention. She added that there is no deadline this year for a student organization to commit. 

College sophomore Gabriel Brodsky, who serves as the student liaison for the Sigma Nu chapter, said that although his chapter is also involved with other campus organizations, such as Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault, AVEN was appealing because it has a broader focus, and looks at situations beyond those present in Greek life.

"AVEN is attempting to deal with a whole lot more and that was something that we were interested in becoming involved with," Brodsky said.

Another key component of AVEN is its new partnership with ASAP. The group spearheads the annual "Got Consent?" campaign, which creates posters for participating student groups stating what consent means to them. Last year, over 60 groups participated. 

The bar will be set higher this year for student groups that want to be a part of the "Got Consent?" campaign: Only those in AVEN will be able to join.

College senior Kellie Ramdeen, who serves as the community outreach chair for ASAP, said ASAP has worked closely with PVP, and plans in the next few weeks to bring new student organizations into the network.

"Change takes time and it takes work," Ramdeen said. "Because [AVEN] is a year-long process, I think that's a good way to keep groups involved and keep them talking."

Mertz highlighted that the most common reason for not reporting sexual assault, according to a 2015 survey, is the fear of negative social consequences.

"Ideally, even one way we can work to eliminate that barrier, is if we have a more informed student body," Mertz said. "If we can inform students more about victim blaming and about how to support survivors and be more active bystanders, then that will hopefully minimize that barrier for folks."

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