Hannah Woodhouse embarked on her violence prevention crusade while still in high school — when working with inner city and underprivileged students.
She had been trained to recognize signs of bullying and child abuse and that work, in turn, spurred her to read extensively on rape culture and sexual abuse on college campuses. “I developed a passion for eradicating it,” she said.
Now as the assistant coordinator of violence prevention and advocacy services at the URI Women’s Center, Woodhouse’s duties include overseeing the student group URI P.L.E.A.S.E (Peers Learning Educating and Supporting Everyone). The group’s goal is to make the URI community a safe and healthy environment by educating students about issues related to sexual and relationship violence, stalking and bystander intervention. Woodhouse was the paid student coordinator of P.L.E.A.S.E in her senior year at URI and was instrumental in its development into a multifaceted organization offering trainings and certifications, presentations and outreach programs, and events for students.
“In working with people who’ve had experience with interpersonal violence, it’s important to have someone believe them.” Hannah Woodhouse
“P.L.E.A.S.E is about reframing how people view sexual assault, rape culture and violence,” Woodhouse said. “Not everyone experiences the same things, but, statistically speaking, everyone knows someone who has experienced these things.
“In working with people who’ve had experience with interpersonal violence, it’s important to have someone believe them,” Woodhouse said.
Woodhouse’s work as a student drew the admiration of the local women’s domestic abuse prevention organization, the Domestic Violence Resource Center of South County, which recently honored her for her work. A former gender and women’s studies major, Woodhouse intends to pursue a master’s in public policy or further culture, gender and race studies.
“I’ve been approached by students saying, ‘I’ve been a victim and I’m really happy you’re doing this.'” Woodhouse said. “That lets me know what I’m doing is necessary and important.”