MEPP, SafeNet and MU Counseling host ‘Relationship Dance’

Erin Almeter, Staff writer

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On Nov. 21 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., a group of leaders from Mercyhurst Empowerment and Prevention Program (MEPP), SafeNet and the Counseling Center hosted a relationship workshop for students. The event was titled “The Relationship Dance: Healthy Boundaries in Motion.”

This event was the first of its kind that was open to all students, but similar programs have been put on for Resident Assistants, athletes and Laker Leaders. It was an intimate gathering of individuals with only seven students in attendance and four leaders, but it was successful in opening up the floor for discussion of these relationship issues and useful problem solving skills.

The Relationship Dance event was put on in conjunction with the Dance Department’s production of “Giselle” that occurred between Nov. 22 and 24. “Giselle’s” ticket sales benefited the Jenni-Lyn Watson Memorial Scholarship Fund as well as SafeNet. Seven years ago, Watson, a junior Dance major at the time, was tragically killed by her ex-boyfriend when she was home during Thanksgiving break.

Discussing Watson’s story is still important today so as to help those that may be in a similar situation. This workshop was to help students discover and set boundaries as well as learn how to end relationships. As the flyer had stated, “this lively inter-active workshop explores how to choreograph the boundaries within our closest relationships, including when relationships end.”

Michael Madonia, MSW, Project Manager for MEPP, was one of the leaders of the evening. He described that MEPP promotes respect and safety for all community members. They work to prevent sexual assault, domestic and dating violence as well as stalking. Madonia stressed the importance of realizing that even if a person is not in a dating relationship, much of the information can also be applied to friendships as well.

Judy Smith, Ph.D., Executive Director of Wellness, was also present at the event. Additional leaders were Robyn Young, SafeNet’s Director of Domestic Violence Services and Karen Swager, SafeNet’s Outreach Coordinator.

Students that attended were given information and resources to help as they navigate their own relationships.The workshop focused on discussion and interaction from those attending with low verbal content from the speakers themselves. Those that attended were asked to participate in role playing scenarios to put themselves in certain situations that could happen.

The starting point of the role playing activity centered around discussing boundaries in relationships such as time constraints, social media, texting and money. The first scenario featured a guy showing up to a girl’s apartment that he had met at a party, without texting or calling beforehand.

The second boundary situation was about a girl posting online that she was in a relationship when the guy she was referring to was actually still questioning his feelings about their relationship. Attendees then moved into a role-playing scenario regarding breaking up. Many of the students that attended focused on face-to-face interactions, sticking to their ground and still showing kindness to the other person when the situation needed it.

Smith, as well as the other leaders, offered constructive comments as students completed the role-playing scenarios, but they were sure to let the students discuss what they felt during the scenarios. Young and Swager also commented on making sure that students are taking care of themselves individually. They made sure that students recognized that even if the other person in the partnership does not see why the relationship may be ending, it is important for students to stand their ground if it is truly going to be best for their own well-being.

If any students want more information, there are several on-campus resources such as the Cohen Health Center and Counseling Center, Police and Safety and Campus Ministry. Off-campus resources can be found at SafeNet and the Crime Victim Center. The leaders made sure to let everyone know that they are willing to listen and be there for anyone that might need support.