The Erin Levitas Initiative for Sexual Assault Prevention at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law
Two programs at Maryland Carey Law are coming together to make this initiative a reality. The Gender Violence Clinic explores the ways in which gender and violence intersect. The Center for Dispute Resolution (C-DRUM) promotes the effective resolution of conflict to empower and transform.
The Erin Levitas Initiative for Sexual Assault Prevention will engage young men and women in educational activities designed to help them identify, question, and reject the destructive ideas that give rise to sexual violence and may help us to undo the damage such attitudes cause, from middle school through high school.
Quince Hopkins, a gender violence and restorative justice expert, is the Director of the Initiative, working with Leigh Goodmark and the Gender Violence Clinic and Deborah Eisenberg and Barbara Grochal of C-DRUM. She is designing an evidence-based research program, including a new curriculum that will introduce students to the concept of addressing difficult subjects through open dialogue. Our goal is to facilitate a safe conversation around sexual violence in an attempt to change the current culture.
We will do this by:
- Conducting outreach to the schools. A key function of this initiative is building and maintaining relationships with area elementary and middle schools. The law school is fortunate to have a foundation of trust with many of these institutions. Using that foundation gives the Initiative a unique opportunity to be present where our mission requires us to be.
- Coordinating presentations at the schools. Our goal is to change the way that boys and young men think about girls and women by addressing the attitudes that drive violence. By changing attitudes early, we hope to transform the culture in the long-term. Through presenting to schools, we can open a dialogue and start planting the seeds of change.
- Training law students on the curriculum. Law school clinic students have done amazing work when given the training and opportunity to use restorative practices to enhance social emotional learning, and to resolve disputes in schools. The curriculum to support the Initiative has two parts: 1) training on using proactive restorative circles to engage in dialogue with young people about attitudes and other predictors of future sexual offending, and 3) training on responsive restorative justice to address low level sexual offending situations as they arise. Clinic students then work within schools, acting as the conduits of change.
- Training teachers, principals, administrators, and parents. Students and staff cannot act alone if we hope to make a sustainable change in attitudes. To help ensure that the program is accomplishing its goals, the Initiative will work with the people that the students interact with on a daily basis. This includes training in restorative methods of conflict resolution, educating them on their legal rights and responsibilities, and spreading awareness of when and how to intervene.