History of 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.

As more and more energy grew around addressing these issues in our community, students vocalized wanting to play a role in developing and informing these new initiatives. In 1997, with the financial support of the Betsy McCandless Fund, students and staff worked to form a peer education group, which became known as the Betsy’s Friends Peer Education Program. Ruth Ginsberg, professional activist and classmate of Betsy’s, said of the program “we found a use for the memorial fund money that Betsy would have approved of and been proud of.”

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.

Betsy’s Friends is advised by, and works in collaboration with the Simmons University Violence Prevention and Educational Outreach Program.

If you would like to become involved in the Betsy’s Friends Peer Education Program which meets weekly, please VPEO@simmons.edu or follow the group on Facebook