SHARPP holds annual open house

Max Scheinblum

DURHAM – The Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), held its annual community event on Tuesday, Oct. 5, at Wolff House, welcoming students and others who want to learn more about the organization’s mission and services. 

“It’s really great to hold events like this and to get people to know what we’re all about and all the services we offer,” said senior Delaney Ripley. She was one of many student volunteers at the open house who led tours, handed out fliers and provided key information to attendees. 

Ripley has been working with SHARPP as a trained peer advocate since her sophomore year. Her experiences working with the group have led her to pursue a career in the social work field. 

“I’ve really found a passion for working one on one with survivors and helping them through their experiences,” she said. 

Kate Gladstone, a prevention specialist for SHARPP, referred to their mission as instrumental to ensuring a safe environment at the university. 

“We are doing what we can to stop violence before it ever even happens,” she said. “It’s a lot of education about consent, bystander intervention, healthy relationships and anything else kind of relating to that.” 

The organization, a direct affiliate of UNH, was founded in 1978 to achieve two primary goals: spread awareness about sexual and interpersonal violence and provide confidential support for survivors and other individuals who are enduring violence. SHARPP hosts informative events throughout the year while also providing one-on-one, confidential help to students and staff.  

Student volunteers, who work as community educators and peer advocates, help SHARPP’s several full-time staff members. The students are required to take a course that trains them on becoming a confidential supporter. They work the phones for SHARPP’s 24/7 Confidential Help Hotline, where they connect those on and around campus with any services they may need. 

Tuesday’s event offered visitors a chance to get acquainted with SHARPP in a more personal, casual way. Erica Vazza, who has been the outreach and training coordinator at SHARPP since 2018, planned guest activities. 

“This is one of the events that we try to open our doors and let people inside to know that we are here and we’re accessible,” said Vazza. “People are sometimes like ‘Oh this building! What is it? It’s so mysterious. It just says Wolff House.’ We’re just trying to demystify what we’re doing.”  

She also explained the open house is one of the most successful events that they put on. The ability to tangibly see what’s going on in the building and how the program runs is crucial in getting their word out and impacting survivors at UNH. 

Vazza said that every year SHARPP sees survivors of interpersonal violence who thank SHARPP for their services and that the open house has helped Wolff House visitors understand the space and the services that are offered.