Photo by John Nakano

With a strong presence on Tech’s campus for ten years, VOICE is a campus wide initiative working towards preventing and responding to sexual violence at Tech. The program came out of a federal grant that aimed to address violence against women through violence prevention and response work on the Tech’s campus. Since 2002, the campaign-centered program has been an ongoing collaboration between STAMPS Health Services and the Women’s Resource Center.

“We believe that the students at Georgia Tech should be free of the threat of violence. I think our initiative has been effective,” Melanie DeMaeyer, the program coordinator and victim advocate at the Women’s Resource Center, said. “I think it helps to let folks know that sexual violence is an issue on all college campuses, including ours.”

The program has made dedicated efforts to reach out to various groups to ensure people of all backgrounds and interests hear VOICE’s message: “to create a campus culture that promotes respect, communication, and equity among the Georgia Tech
community.”

“We’ve had more and more survivors come forward to tell us what has happened to them here, and that is really important because that means they are getting connected to resources, getting support, and the institution is able to hold perpetrators accountable, and as a community, it means survivors are feeling safer and more supported, and I think that is a definite mark of effectiveness,” DeMaeyer said.

Being a part of the program since its conception, DeMaeyer has been able to see the program grow to be more accessible to
students.

“The president announced this year that we are going to institutionalize the victim advocate position at Tech, so that means we will have a full time victim advocate for the students,” DeMaeyer said. “We’ve always had a really good partnership with sorority women through our Safe Sister program, but recently fraternity men have also come forward saying that they want those partnerships as well. They’ve been really valuable and have made commitments to train large portions of their
community.”

“This year’s IFC Executive board decided that one of our major goals would be to help end sexual violence on our campus,” Conor Martin, third-year ME and IFC Executive Vice President, said. “I have taken it upon myself to do a large amount of work concerning the matter because it is something I am very passionate about helping end … we have built a strong foundation to further fight the issue of sexual violence.  We have many programs in place to help end sexual violence and assault on campus.”

The initiative also seeks to raise awareness of sexual violence through events, including Take Back the Night and Teal
Ribbon Day.

“Teal Ribbon day is a day for individuals — as well as chapters — to show their support for victims of sexual assault in our own community as well as showing dedication to ending the issue,” Martin said. “Once a few students are seen with the courage to stand up for this issue, I believe other students will become more involved with ending sexual
violence.”

While the program has already taken great strides to making a difference on campus, VOICE is still growing.

“I want us to reach more students, and I want more survivors to feel like they can come forward and share their stories. I also want to see us doing more training around survivor support and prevention so that it becomes a common language at Tech,” DeMaeyer said. “We’re in this work to help eliminate violence.”

With more groups prioritizing VOICE’s initiatives, the movement will hopefully expand to DeMaeyer’s satisfaction.