News Published: Sep 28, 2012 - 7:49:57 AM

‘Operation Jungle Red’ promotes non-violence at WCSU

By Western Connecticut State University

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In the photo, Rafael Cordwell paints the pinky fingernail of a student who has taken the non-violence pledge at an OJR event in 2011.
— Western Connecticut State University will hold “Operation Jungle Red” (OJR) events throughout the month of October in promotion of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The program will consist of four lectures on different topics and an ending OJR send-off event that will feature artist performances and a gathering of community resources.

Events will take place at the Student Center on the university’s Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury, and the Westside Campus Center, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury. All discussions will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The concluding send-off event will be from 7 to 9 p.m.

· Oct. 2: Gender Stereotypes - Midtown Student Center courtyard
· Oct. 11: Sexual Violence – Westside Campus Center
· Oct. 17: Violence and the Law – Midtown Student Center courtyard
· Oct. 22: Intimate Partner Violence - Midtown Student Center courtyard
· Oct. 24: OJR send off – Westside Campus Center ballroom

Students who attend the discussions will receive a pledge card and have their pinky nail painted red, a cornerstone of the event. Students willing to share what they’ve learned throughout the discussions will receive prize giveaways.

Litchfield Hall Resident Director Rafael Cordwell is leader of the anti-violence movement at WestConn.

“Violence, oppression and prejudice are learned behaviors. That which is learned can be unlearned,” said Cordwell, who organized what was a successful first OJR campaign at WestConn last October. Cordwell, who chairs the OJR committee, is currently working toward a Master of Arts in women’s studies.

The OJR committee is comprised of faculty and professionals in the community with training and experience directly related to this ongoing societal issue. “The discussion groups are pivotal to the program and unique to WestConn,” Cordwell said. “By recruiting professionals, we hoped to ensure the longevity of the program.” Psychologists, police officers, professors and educators including Kelly Mullins, community educator for the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury, and Rebecca Cohen, community educator for Women’s Support Services of Sharon, Conn., will lead discussions. Sharon Guck, coordinator of WestConn’s alcohol & substance abuse prevention program, also will take part, along with a number of other faculty members.

OJR was first enacted in 2008 at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, to commemorate the deadly shootings at Virginia Tech and end senseless violence on college campuses. Students taking a course about contemporary issues in men’s health organized the program, with the initiative to bring to light the different types of violence committed by men and generate discussion about the socialization of men and the significant role it plays in these violent acts.

The Women’s Center of Greater Danbury has a partnership with the university where they provide domestic violence and sexual assault outreach services to the WestConn community with an office located on WestConn’s Midtown campus. The Men’s Initiative is a movement organized through the center that confronts male violence against women by using male role models to conduct gender education and present a healthy definition of masculinity. Members become agents of change by confronting gender stereotypes and behavior that devalues women.

Cordwell is co-chair of the Women’s Center’s Men’s Initiative, where he has been chosen as one of 100 exceptional male leaders throughout Connecticut to be honored at a Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence breakfast in Hartford on Sept. 21. He has implemented programs through the center such as the new “Slice of Life,” an eight-week, anti-violence program run through the residence halls.

Now Cordwell’s energy is devoted to making OJR an even bigger success than last year so students can obtain a broadened perspective. “With this program I hope to challenge students’ way of thinking as well as how they’re socialized, the way they communicate, and how they show compassion,” Cordwell said. “Transforming the atmosphere and culture at the university was the driving force behind my desire to replicate this program.”

For more information, call (203) 837-9060.

Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.

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