Violence Prevention & Educational Outreach

The Simmons University Violence Prevention and Educational Outreach Program works to educate and spread awareness around forms of gender-based violence (e.g. sexual harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking etc.), to prevent the occurrence of violence on our campus or impacting our community, familiarizing community members with Simmons policy and protocol to address and respond to these issues if they arise, and to support and advocate for student survivors of violence.  

How We Help

Betsy's Friends Peer Education Program

Betsy's Friends Peer Education Program

The Betsy’s Friends Peer Education Program is named after Simmons Alumna, Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ McCandless, ‘71, who in 1992, lost her life to domestic violence at the hands of her estranged ex-husband. News of her violent death rocked the Simmons community. Betsy’s classmates, along with a number of staff members came together to create the Betsy McCandless Memorial Fund in her name, and launched a number of University-wide initiatives to spread awareness and education around the issues of gender-based violence.

Today, the Betsy’s Friends Peer Education Program is made up of a passionate and diverse group of students who work to keep Betsy’s memory alive. The group focuses on prevention, education and awareness around domestic/dating violence, sexual assault, coercion and stalking, and helps to inform other University initiatives surrounding gender-based violence. Some of Betsy's Friends' annual programs include The Clothesline Project and Take Back the Night, which is a collaborative event with the SWAG (Sexuality, Women and Gender) student group, and is hosted by Simmons for the entire Colleges of the Fenway consortium.

The Clothesline Project

The Clothesline Project was created in Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1990, as a public awareness campaign to break the silence surrounding gender-based violence, while honoring the strength and resilience of victims and survivors. The project involves an installation of hand-decorated t-shirts suspended from clotheslines that represent personal experiences with violence and messages of strength. 

With help from the Betsy McCandless Memorial Fund, Simmons University was the first to bring the Clothesline Project to the Greater Boston area in 1993.  The program was hosted in memory of alumna Elizabeth "Betsy" McCandless and others whose lives have been impacted or lost due to domestic violence and sexual assault. From that time on, Simmons has continued to hold the project annually, growing a large collection of symbolic t-shirts to display, accompanied by an evening of speakers who draw awareness to the issues of gender-based violence, and share Betsy's story in order to keep her memory alive.  

Betsy's brother, Steve McCandless, as well as some of Betsy's classmates continue to attend this special event every year.  Steve has dedicated his time and financial support to spreading awareness about gender-based violence within the Simmons community by funding the Betsy's Friends Peer Education Program.  He is also on the Simmons University Board of Trustees, where he has played a crucial role in supporting the University since 2001.

If you would like to become involved in the Betsy’s Friends Peer Education Program, please reach out to VPEO@simmons.edu or follow us on Facebook.

Education and Awareness
  • Facilitate educational events, workshops, and trainings for all students regarding gender-based violence, respectful and healthy relationships, consent, bystander intervention etc.
  • Distribute information and resources to incoming graduate and undergraduate students in orientation sessions
  • Develop ongoing and strategic programming for first year students
  • Host annual domestic violence and sexual awareness campaigns
Prevention
  • Facilitate bystander intervention programming, to encourage and engage students in being active bystanders- to not only recognize situations that have the potential to escalate to violence, but to use strategies and tools for safe and effective intervention.
  • Work alongside the University’s Health Education program to provide comprehensive sex education, which include conversations with students about how to communicate about safer sex, contraception, boundaries, respect, healthy relationships and sexual consent.
  • Offer opportunities for students to develop and refine their leadership skills surrounding violence prevention work, on campus and in their professional lives beyond Simmons. 
Policy and Protocol
  • Familiarize students with the University’s Gender-Based Misconduct Policy, which outlines expectations for community conduct, protocol for responding to incidences of gender-based discrimination, student rights and protections, interim measures, and available resources, etc.
Best Practices
  • Serve as a consultant for other departments on campus to help better practices and protocols for supporting student survivors
  • Coordinate internal and external trainings for staff on a variety of related topics to assist them in being more knowledgeable about gender-based violence and its impact on student survivors
  • Maintain survivor-centered practices on campus, and use student feedback to better future outcomes
Student Advocacy
  • Offer one-on-one support for students who have experienced gender-based discrimination
  • Refer students to valuable resources
  • Accompany students to Public Safety, local police departments, court etc., when appropriate
  • Answer student questions about the Gender-Based Misconduct Policy, and assist them in reporting concerns to the University’s Title IX Team