Greta Spoering works as a confidential survivor advocate in Violence Prevention and Response at Emerson College. (Photo by Dan O'Brien)
Greta Spoering is excited to have finished her first academic year working at Emerson College, where she is one of two advocates with Emerson’s Violence Prevention and Response, a confidential resource on campus.
“‘Confidential’ means that what is said in the room stays in the room,” Spoering said.
A licensed clinical social worker, Spoering works alongside Melanie Matson, director of VPR, as a resource for anyone affiliated with Emerson who has been affected by power–based interpersonal violence, which includes sexual assault, harassment, stalking, threats, and abusive relationships. This includes people who have directly experienced forms of violence, as well as anyone who has supported a friend, a loved one, or has witnessed violence in their communities.
“VPR is a resource regardless of when the violence took place, where it was, or who was involved,” Spoering said.
As confidential advocates, Spoering and Matson provide supportive listening and counseling; talk about different options, including College policies and processes; help with an individual’s request for academic, living, and work accommodations on and off campus; assist in safety planning; go with an individual to campus, legal, and medical meetings and appointments; and plan for self-care and next steps.
“We recognize there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ best plan,” Spoering said. “Everyone has the right to feel safe and supported academically, professionally, and socially. As a result, everything we do is guided by what each person identifies as best for them. For example, we might meet with someone once, intermittently, or on an ongoing basis.”
In addition, VPR is a confidential resource for consultation for students, faculty, and staff who may be supporting a friend, student, or loved one.
Spoering joined Emerson last fall, previously working as a counselor and advocate at the Violence Recovery Program at Fenway Health in Boston. She also interned at Casa Myrna Vazquez, a domestic violence agency in Boston, has volunteered with the Saratoga Domestic Violence/Rape Crisis Center, and is a member of the GLBT Domestic Violence Coalition in Boston.
At Emerson, Spoering says she enjoys working as part of a larger community—not only providing support to people, but also leading trainings and workshops about violence prevention, as well as collaborating with faculty and students on class projects.
“This is an incredibly creative, talented community, and I love the ways the arts are being used toward social change,” Spoering said. “There are endless opportunities to think about creative ways to approach these topics. Seeing students, faculty, and staff taking action against injustice and working toward change at Emerson and in our larger communities is something to be proud of.”
For example, this spring, VPR collaborated with the Visual and Media Arts Department’s Bright Lights film series for a screening and discussion of The Hunting Ground, a First-Year Writing Program class on designing games that educated players about bystander intervention, and Theatre Education classes.
VPR also organized several events to raise awareness about violence prevention, including the Jeans for Justice Rally and bringing students to the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center’s Walk for Change this spring.
VPR additionally collaborated with student- and faculty-led projects, including several events as part of Kappa Gamma Chi’s Emerald Empowerment Week and a student-performed play, Won’t Stay Silent, which addressed sexual assault and was directed by Performing Arts faculty member Erin Schwall ’05.
Continuing into the next academic year is Emerson STANDS (Stand Together. Act Now. Do Something), a bystander intervention and violence prevention awareness program that rallies students, faculty, staff, and alumni around being active bystanders and helping to create a culture where people stand up for one another.
“Because of the tremendous support we’ve received, I’m really excited to see Emerson STANDS continue to grow this fall and into the next academic year,” Spoering said. “It’s an important step in shaping our campus as a violence-free community.”