First month for sexual violence educator


Gillian Symolon

Elliot Ruggles, sexual violence prevention and education coordinator, speaks during the SGA meeting March 22.

Dr. Elliot Ruggles, UVM’s first sexual violence prevention and education coordinator, reflected on their first month in the position during public forum at the SGA meeting on March 22.

Since their hiring Feb. 22, Ruggles began discussing education and future initiatives with UVM administration and community. They are beginning to develop initiatives to help prevent sexual violence and educate the University.

“I’m trying to be as available as possible and really meeting people where they’re at as much as possible,” Ruggles said. “That means being open to whoever is really invested in talking about these issues.”

Ruggles holds open office hours on campus for students to have conversations pertaining to issues such as sexual, gender-based and relationship violence. They hope to develop a better understanding of the student body’s perspective, he said.

These office hours will take place at various locations and times which can be found in his March 22 Cynic letter to the editor.   

Ruggles, who came into their role the week of the UVM Instagram post protests, is hopeful about the fact that many students care about the work that he will be doing, Ruggles said.

“From an educator standpoint [there are] a lot of opportunities for education,” Ruggles said. “It always encourages me when people are willing to have hard conversations about harm happening in communities because shoving things under the rug doesn’t work.”

Ruggles looks forward to hearing from the UVM student body on what they feel that they need to feel safe on their campus.

UVM collaborates with HOPE Works VT, a nonprofit for victims of sexual assault, to create a hotline for those who want to get in contact with a confidential advocate, Ruggles said.

“If somebody is concerned they’ve experienced sexual or gender based harm and wants to talk about the experience they had, or is having kind of moment of acute crisis, that’s a great number to call and so the person is a trained advocate,” Ruggles said.

When called, the hotline immediately connects students with a confidential advocate who will guide survivors through their options and provide them with support, Ruggles said.

The hotline number to HOPE Works VT confidential advocate hotline is 802-863-1236, according to the UVM website.

Ruggles hopes to launch a series of workshops called Transforming Masculinity, which will be centered around inclusivity, harm and healing, gender and privilege, they said.

These workshops aim to speak to men on a smaller community scale and get to the bottom of what masculinity really means, Ruggles said.

“I think that would be great for understanding [and learning] to deal with certain emotions,” said SGA Senator Mason Paterson, a sophomore. “It would be great for men’s health because masculinity is one of the things that keeps men from expressing their emotions and helping themselves.”

The program will have a discussion group which will look inwards to talk about topics pertaining to masculinity, Ruggles said. A peer education component will be utilized to look more outwards on the world around oneself.

However, senators raised concerns about how Ruggles’ program would attract men to interact with the discussion group and peer education content.

“If we could get guys to do it, which would be a challenge, because [Transforming Masculinity] is an insult to their masculinity to begin with,” Paterson said.  “It’s gonna be hard to get your average man to attend a program like that because [men] don’t want to be vulnerable.”

Ruggles hopes to resolve this issue by tailoring the Transforming Masculinity program to the UVM population as they did in their previous experience at Brown University. He launched a Masculinity Peer Education program at Brown in 2017 while employed there.