Six Steps for Using Everyday Language to Help Prevent Violence

When you think about how you can help prevent sexual or interpersonal violence, what comes to mind? Learning how to be an active bystander through workshops or trainings like One Act? Keeping your friends safe when partying or socializing? Joining a student organization like Project Dinah? These are all great ways to get involved in violence prevention and make our campus a safer place for everyone!

There is not just one way to get involved or prevent violence, because violence operates on a continuum of different levels, ranging from overt acts to participation in a culture that accepts or normalizes those acts. For example, public health professional Lydia Guy conceptualizes violence as a continuum of overlapping circles, ranging from actions complicit in systems of oppression (like racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, or ableism) to less frequent, more overt acts of violence that most would agree should be treated as violent crimes. The actions toward the “more frequent” end of the spectrum (for example, catcalling or telling racist “jokes”) hold systems in place that make it possible for the “less frequent” violence (sexual assault, rape, or murder) to happen.

            Making our campus safe can start with considering how our everyday language and conversations shape the overall culture that allows or deters violence on our campus. Most examples of language that contribute to violent culture happen frequently and are less noticeable. These ways of communicating not only reflect the culture we live in, but also shape the ways we know how to describe and react to potential situations of violence.

"Languages" by Chris JL, Flickr Creative Commons
“Languages” by Chris JL, Flickr Creative Commons

Examples of this kind of language may include:

  • Trivializing assault or other interpersonal violence, such as casually or jokingly using the terms “rape” or “stalking” (“That test raped me” or “I was totally Facebook stalking you earlier”)
  • Language that contributes to the marginalization of a particular group, such as telling racist, classist, or homophobic jokes, using male-based generics (like “all men are created equal”), or other microaggressions (for example, assuming that everyone you meet is heterosexual when you ask about their dating life)
  • Language that contributes to the silencing or invalidation of victims/survivors of violence, such as victim-blaming or shaming people for their sexual history, choice, or expression (“what a slut”)
  • Language that conflates sexual and violent imagery, like saying “I hit that,” or someone got “banged” or “screwed,” that normalize the combination of violence and sexuality
  • Language that propagates the myth that men are unable to control their sexual urges (“boys will be boys”)—this is not only insulting to men, but can also perpetuate the permissibility of acting on these urges, without regard to the consent of sexual partners.


            The good news is that we can also use language to help prevent violence – starting today! Here are some ways you can help change culture and make sure people know our campus is a place that does not tolerate violence of any kind.

  1. Be purposeful with your words. Being conscious of the history and meanings of the words can be extremely powerful. It can be helpful to think about whether language choices make light of violence, shame survivors of violence, or contribute to the marginalization of certain groups of people. Make the decision as often as possible to avoid language that contributes to violent and/or oppressive culture.
  2. Keep your friends accountable, too! People may not be aware of how their language impacts violence. Gently pointing out violent or oppressive language from friends, partners, or acquaintances can create respectful and productive dialogue. Depending on the situation and comfort level, this may as simple as saying “hey, that’s not cool/funny,” or pulling them aside to talk later. It can also be powerful to ask others to identify any language that they think is violent, oppressive, or disrespectful from others.
  3. Stand up to oppressive “jokes.” Lately, my favorite way to do this has been simply saying, “I don’t get it… What do you mean?” The person telling the joke may have a hard time explaining!
  4. Use language to create a community of respect. For example, make an effort to honor the pronouns that a person chooses to go by, whatever they may be, or respect others’ agency by asking how they identify rather than making assumptions based on the way they look or act.
  5. Critically examine the media. For example, in a news story covering a sexual assault case, do reporters include unnecessary details — like what the victim/survivor was wearing, or their sexual history? How can phrasing affect the way the public — or the jury — perceives a crime? Overall, how does language affect the way we view the world?
  6. Educate yourself with some further reading! Here are some helpful articles to start with:


If you witness behavior that may cross a line into the territory of harassment or discrimination, check out UNC’s new policy for prohibited discrimination, harassment, and related misconduct for options and resources.

How you can have a healthier relationship… with food!

Image from

A healthy relationship… with food?

You’ve probably heard of a “healthy relationship” with family, with friends, or with a partner, but we talk less often about our relationships with food in terms of their health — beyond simply what we consume and when. A relationship with food is psychological, financial, social, and cultural as well as physical. Like any other healthy relationship, a healthy relationship with food is free of fear or the feeling of being controlled or out of control.

What impacts our relationship with food?

Our relationships with food are impacted by our life experiences and the systems around us. For example, the fad diet industry often uses body-shaming tactics and capitalizes on our desire to be “good” or “healthy” people in its mission to sell more products. These techniques often also promote the idea that some foods are inherently “good” and others are inherently “bad.” You’ve probably heard a friend say, “I’ve been so bad today — I ate (fill in the blank).”

However, there are no “good” or “bad” foods — and furthermore, what we consume can’t make us “good” or “bad” people! Just like eating kale all the time doesn’t make you somehow better or more moral, a bag of chips doesn’t suddenly make you a “bad” or “unhealthy” person. A healthy relationship with food involves knowing that your morality or value as a person is not determined by what you consume.

Our relationships with food can also be shaped by a desire to attain an (often unrealistic) “ideal” as portrayed on TV, in movies, or through other media. This ideal of “health” or “fitness” often depends on visible body shape/size, and provides a very narrow window of “healthy” shapes/sizes. However, research tells us that we cannot tell how healthy a person is — or how healthy his/her/their relationship with food is — by the size or shape of her/his/their body.

Overall, our bodies need different things at different times. Only you can determine what’s best for you based on your body, access to resources, and belief systems. One rule or set of guidelines does not apply to everyone in regards to diet, and people have many different ways of getting the nutrients we need.

Image from Pinterest

What can I do to have a healthier relationship with food?

  • Remind yourself that your value does not depend on what you eat, and that there are many more ways to be healthy than are shown in the media.
  • Listen to your body. To the extent that you are able, try to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Don’t wait for your hunger or your fullness to “yell” at you – keep in touch with what your body needs to the best of your abilities based on your access to resources. This can take practice!
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself! Being rigid and restrictive about what foods you “allow” yourself to eat can be harmful to your body and your mind. Focusing excessively on what foods you have eaten, or counting calories obsessively, are often a sign of an unhealthy relationship with food.
  • Pick the foods that give you the energy to do what you do during the day. After all, that’s what calories are — energy! The more nutrients that come along with that energy, the better.

Find more information:

Balanced eating as a vegan or vegetarian

Finding balanced and nutritious foods on a budget

Nutrition resources at UNC

If you feel concerned for yourself or a friend, or want to talk more about your relationship with food, you can find more information and contact options here.

3 Things to Remember About Fitness

  by Ben Smart
Peathegee Inc/Getty Images
1. A healthy lifestyle is a journey, not a destination
It’s about how you drive the car, not where you’re going. Confused? Think of your body like a vehicle. These vehicles come in all shapes, sizes, ages, builds, and colors. How well your vehicle performs depends a lot on how you drive and care for it. Do you change your oil every 10,000 miles? Do you invest in high quality fuel? Are you careful to not constantly strain the engine? Applied to your body, there’s actually much less variation in body types than vehicle variety.
According to a 2011 study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, your quality of life depends greatly on your lifestyle choices. This means the small decisions you make on a daily basis add up. Check out this article from the Huffington Post on 100 ways to live to 100.
2. Sleep is your golden life force energy
Sounds silly, doesn’t it? I phrased it this way to highlight the dire importance of a good night’s rest. And the occasional nap is highly welcomed as well. When you sleep, your body repairs itself – restoring damaged tissues. The amount of sleep you get has a profound effect on your weight and your overall health. The CDC recommends that teens get 9-10 hours of sleep per day, and adults get 7-8 hours. . Wow! That may sound like a long time in bed for those of us who push ourselves to the limit. Some people say that they get by just fine on 4-5 hours of sleep (this could be you!). Chances are, they probably don’t. Don’t take my word for it – check out this video on sleep by neurosurgeon and CNN’S Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta.
3. Exercise is about more than losing weight
Losing weight seems the be the sole reason that many people exercise in the first place. However, it’s definitely not the only benefit that you’re getting from a consistent exercise program. Many fitness experts warn against focusing only on the result of weight loss, as this outcome can take many weeks to manifest. This delayed gratification can prove too much for some people – who could become easily discouraged. Instead, focus on the energy and increased functioning that you get from being active. To achieve your healthiest life, make exercise a priority, not an afterthought.
Finish the summer months strong!
Make this school year your healthiest with UNC Campus Rec.
Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation staff members. Each Wednesday we’ll be swapping blog posts with the Tarheel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on


Upcycling: DIY for your dorm!

Welcome to a new year at Carolina! For those of you who live on campus, this means new friends, maybe a new roommate, and a new room to make your own. You can make the most of the space you have while saving money and the environment by upcycling! Even if you don’t live in a dorm, upcycling is a great idea—especially if rent leaves you with a tight budget.

What is upcycling?

Upcycling is a type of recycling that involves giving old, broken, or used products new and greater value by altering them in some way. Crafting, construction, and creativity can all be elements of upcycling. The term has been used as a contrast to downcycling, another type of recycling that involves breaking down materials and converting them into new items, often of lesser quality and involving some sort of environmental impact (or, what happens to the things you put in your recycling bin).

The benefits of upcycling

Save money. Upcycling is a great idea for students on a budget, since all you need is some old stuff, a little creativity, and maybe a few art or craft supplies along the way. Upcycling can eliminate the need to buy expensive storage, decorations, or other supplies for your dorm.

Make the most of the space you have. Out with the old, in with the new! Not only will you be getting rid of your old stuff that takes up space, you can upcycle items into storage containers or clever solutions for common dorm problems. These solutions might even help you get along with your new roommate!

Save the environment. All of the things you re-use or re-purpose are saved from being tossed into a landfill. These items won’t create waste that has a detrimental effect on both the environment and human health.

And finally, express your creativity! By creating some of the things that will be in your dorm room, you’ll add a personal touch to your living space, and you’ll have one-of-a-kind items that you can keep forever. These ideas are meant to get you started, but feel free to explore and invent new ways to re-use and rejuvenate your old stuff!

To get you started, here are a few upcycling ideas:


  • An old cookie tray, attached to your wall with some poster tack or tape, is a magnetic board! Use it to put up messages to your suitemates or hang pictures of your friends and family. You can spray paint it for a more personal touch. You can even attach magnets to your toothbrush, hairbrush, makeup or other often-used items to keep them on hand while freeing up space on your desk or dresser.
  • Old jewel CD cases can be used as picture frames, either mounted on the wall or sitting on your desk.
  • You can make a banner out of paint samples, cut into shapes and attached to some string.

Storage and Organization

  • Transform a large cardboard box into a useful and attractive storage bin by covering it in fabric.
  • Spray paint or decorate an egg carton to serve as a jewelry or small item organizer.
  • Stack and glue together cereal boxes and wrap them in wrapping paper for a storage shelf perfectly sized for notebook or printer paper.
  • Empty shampoo bottles can make for sturdier storage or hanging storage from a lofted bed! They can also be used as vases.
  • Paint or decorate plastic fruit containers (for example, strawberry containers) and use as storage for smaller items.
  • Use shoeboxes cut in half to organize your desk or dresser drawers! This could also be good for separating dresser or fridge space between you and your roommate if necessary.
  • Use soda pop tabs on your hangers to offset them and create more space in your closet.
  • Repurpose and/or decorate tin cans to hold pencils and pens on your desk.
  • Hang an old or unused belt from your lofted bed for handy storage for hangers, or hang it in a loop for rolled-up magazines, sweaters, scarves, etc.
  • Use a shoebox for storing pencils, pens, markers, or other supplies. To make them stand up in the box, you can use toilet paper rolls! You can also reinforce the shoebox so it can hold magazines or books by attaching wooden chopsticks or popsicle sticks around the edges.
  • Repurpose a 12-pack soda box to organize soup cans or other food.

And finally… Make it a party!

You can invite your new suitemates, hallmates, or friends to an upcycling party where you all share your supplies and your old stuff. This is a good way to make sure that everyone has what they need and nobody is throwing out extra items that could be useful, while meeting friends and the people around you in your dorm. When you’re done, if you have leftover items or supplies that you won’t use, you can take them to the Scrap Exchange in Durham, a store that focuses on re-distributing these kinds of materials.

For more information…

Durham Scrap Exchange

Alameda County Industries

Clever Storage Using Repurposed Items

Cute DIYs You Can Make With Things From Your Recycling Bin