On Thursday, Sept. 15, the Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) at UNH held their annual open house. The event ran from 11 a.m.–2 p.m. and was held in their headquarters, Wolff House, located at 2 Pettee Brook Lane. SHARPP staff and volunteers welcomed all members of the community to the event, where they offered tours of the house, and answered any questions that came up.
According to their webpage, SHARPP’s mission is to “eliminate sexual and intimate partner violence. [It] is accomplished in two parts: by providing free and confidential advocacy and direct services to all survivors and their allies; and by offering culturally competent awareness and prevention programs to the University of New Hampshire community.”
The organization is overseen by Student Life, and is “dedicated to providing free and confidential services to survivors of sexual assault, relationship abuse, sexual harassment, childhood sexual abuse and stalking, as well as their allies.”
At the moment, SHARPP has 26 community educators, nine volunteer advocates and six staff members. Anyone is welcome to get involved, but the organization is largely comprised of UNH students. SHARPP was established at UNH in 1986 and is one of the few organizations of its kind in the nation to be affiliated directly with a university.
I was able to catch up with SHARPP community educator and UNH senior Dee Nesti, who has been a SHARPP volunteer for three years. She said that in her three years of being a community educator, this was the most traffic she’d seen so far at their annual open house.
Nesti was able to give me a tour of Wolff House, starting on the front lawn. Displayed out front for the open house was a lemonade stand, with a sign that read, “These lemons were squeezed with CONSENT!” There was also an information table and a clothes line displaying colorful t-shirts with powerful words. Nesti explained that once a semester, one of the programs that SHARPP runs is a t-shirt making workshop. Victims of sexual violence or friends of victims are able to join in and make a t-shirt expressing what they’ve been through. The goal of the t-shirt making display is “to show solidarity and bring survivors out of their shells… and show them that they are empowered,” according to Nesti.
SHARPP members sat on the front porch, greeting visitors and welcoming them to take a walk through the house and grab some snacks. Wolff House opens up into a hallway with a set of stairs. The bottom floor consists of a reception area, a couple sitting rooms, a kitchen and two noise-protected rooms where anyone can talk to an advocate during the day. Upstairs primarily consists of staff members’ offices and a conference room where SHARPP members hold meetings.
The wall aligning the staircase is full of photos of smiling faces. Nesti tells me that this is the “Wall of Fame.” The photos are not only of past and current members of SHARPP, but of anyone in the community who has been involved with or supported SHARPP’s efforts in some way. Nesti noted that the past three years of working with all of these dedicated community members have been incredibly rewarding. “The statistic is that one in four women and one in ten men will have an unwanted sexual experience in college,” Nesti said. “Now, I feel like I can kind of portray that to people and really just raise awareness of it.”
Wolff House is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. During this time, anyone is welcome to walk in without an appointment to ask any questions or to speak with an advocate. SHARPP also offers other forms of direct assistance, including a 24-hour crisis line, emergency medical accompaniment, criminal justice advocacy and information, university judicial support, academic intervention and Title IX support and referrals.
For more information on SHARPP or for questions on how to get involved, visit their website at https://www.unh.edu/sharpp/ or call their office at (603)-862-3494.