What is VOICE?
VOICE stands for Violence Outreach Intervention and Community Empowerment. It is a peer program designed to empower students to take action against sexual and gender-based violence, and support victims/survivors of violence within their respective communities on campus. The program is organized by Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services (RSVP) at the University of Southern California. Students from all parts of campus came together to help develop this critical program.
What exactly do you mean by “sexual and gender-based violence”?
Violence that disproportionately affects women and individuals who do not conform to gender norms. This type of violence tends to support a patriarchal power structure and includes domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, sexual abuse, harassment and stalking. Yet, it should be noted that individuals of all genders can and do experience sexual and gender-based violence.
What would my role be as a VOICE representative?
As a VOICE representative, you serve as a liaison between RSVP and fellow students who are seeking assistance, information or support related to sexual and gender-based violence. Peers often turn to one another to gain information and you would be a valuable resource in your community/organization. During your time in the program, you may be asked to pass out resources in your dorm or at a club meeting, make announcements, post useful links on Facebook – or simply let people know that you are someone they can come to with questions or for support. VOICE representatives also gain awareness they can pass on to and model for their peers, related to topics such as consent, trauma sensitivity, setting boundaries, identifying “warning signs” and encouraging mental and emotional well-being. As a VOICE representative, you are supporting and affirming survivors of violence by working to change the culture in which we live. By recognizing signs of a healthy relationship and practicing affirmative consent, you can be an embodiment of VOICE principles.
VOICE representatives are not professional counselors or certified victim advocates. They are not expected to serve in any formal educative or crisis response capacity. Rather, they play an important role in raising consciousness about sexual and gender-based violence and its impact on campus, as well as providing interim support for students who do not know where to turn.
I’m a survivor of sexual/gender-based violence. Can I still participate in the program?
Yes, survivors are powerful and critical individuals to be involved in VOICE. The discussions and trainings for VOICE involve significant discussion of sexual/gender-based violence, and this content can be triggering for some individuals. Please ensure your own self-care and know that RSVP counselors can be reached for additional support or consultation regarding your participation (213-740-4900).
I’m a first-year / new student at USC. Can I still apply?
Absolutely: this program is open to all students (undergraduate and graduate), regardless of how long they have been at USC or their program of study. Our goal is to reach as many student populations as possible, so we hope to see diversity in the age and class level of our participants. First year students in particular will play a critical part in developing and growing the program over the next few years, as you have the potential to stay involved throughout your entire USC career.
How much time should I expect to spend in my role as a VOICE representative?
VOICE representatives complete an initial six hours of training, spread out over three sessions. Once your training is done, you are expected to attend meetings every other Friday. These meetings last 90 minutes each. Individuals are able to miss up to 3 meetings in the year. It is important to have continual discussions in this area as well as space to build community with other VOICE representatives. Thus, attendance and engagement in the meetings is a critical part of your role as a VOICE representative. You are also encouraged to attend occasional RSVP events and conduct informal outreach among your peers as you see fit.
Do I need to have experience in counseling or peer education?
No particular experience is required, though we expect that you take the program and its subject matter seriously. Regardless of knowledge or experience level, all VOICE Representatives complete six hours of training, which will provide a foundation for addressing issues of sexual and gender-based violence with one another and your peers. We also expect that you will make an effort to familiarize yourself with these issues outside of the context of training and formal VOICE/RSVP events.
Is the position paid?
VOICE Representatives are not paid, though you will receive occasional perks like snacks and VOICE swag!