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RespectCon 2018 focuses on sexual violence prevention, social justice

Student activist Venkayla Haynes will be the keynote for this year’s RespectCon, a national conference hosted by Emory focused on social justice and sexual assault prevention on college campuses.

Honoring the power of student activism to create change will be an underlying focus of RespectCon 2018: Understanding Sexual Violence Through A Social Justice Lens, an annual conference hosted by Emory’s Respect Program.

Now in its sixth year, the national conference was created by Emory students to help foster conversations around the intersections of social justice with sexual assault prevention on college and university campuses.

RespectCon 2018 will be held April 6-7 at the Emory Conference Center and includes a pre-conference summit on April 6, from noon to 6 p.m., that offers events for both students and professionals who work with sexual violence programs on college campuses. 

This year’s conference also kicks off campus activities for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, part of an international campaign to promote the prevention of sexual violence. 

RespectCon is open to anyone involved in college and university sexual violence prevention and response work, including survivor advocates, preventionists, directors and coordinators of sexual-violence related programs, undergraduate and graduate students, and also those involved in community organizations who work closely with college campuses.

Registration runs through April 5; fees range from $20 to $130, with discounts available to students and the Emory community. Limited scholarships are available for those with financial need.

“This year, we are offering a student track for both Pre-Con and RespectCon, because we feel that there are conversations relating to institutional politics, organizational dynamics and campus activism that need to be aired out in safe spaces,” says Wanda Swan, director of Emory’s Respect Program. 

“Simply put, everyone is a stakeholder in this work to end violence, and we seek a diverse group of attendees at RespectCon,” she says. 

In keeping with a theme of student activism, this year’s keynote speaker is Venkayla Haynes, a Spelman College student organizer and member of the Biden Foundation Advisory Council to End Violence Against Women. 

Haynes also serves as a regional adviser for “It’s On Us,” a national movement launched by the Obama administration to raise awareness and fight against sexual assault on college campuses for both men and women, and assists with development and communications at the political advocacy group Know Your IX.

Her passion to fight against sexual violence stems from being a survivor of sexual assault in college and sexual abuse as a child. Her activism initially took root at Spelman College by educating students of their Title IX rights, holding events on consent and helping colleges students host events at other institutions.

Among many awards and recognitions, her activism has led to invitations to the White House and to attend the United State of Women Summit as a nominated change-maker. Her ongoing work focuses on centering the experiences of marginalized groups who are impacted by sexual violence. 

The conference will also feature a free screening of “The Rape of Recy Taylor,” a documentary that explores the life of Taylor, a 24-year-old black mother and sharecropper who in 1944 was raped by six white boys in Alabama. 

At the time, few women in the Jim Crow South reported such abuses out of fear for their lives. However, Taylor identified her rapists, prompting the NAACP to send an investigator, Rosa Parks, who rallied for support and triggered an outcry for justice. 

The film will be shown on Friday, April 6, at 6:30 p.m. in the Emory Amphitheater of the Emory Conference Center; it is free and open to the public. The presentation is made possible in partnership with the Respect Program, the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life, the Office for Racial and Cultural Engagement (RACE) and the Center for Women at Emory.

The Respect Program is the university’s central hub for interpersonal violence prevention and survivor support and resiliency. For more information about RespectCon, visit here.

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