‘Circle Up!’ conversations

What is Circle Up? 

Circle Up is a dialogue-based prevention initiative adapted from the “Conversation Circles” framework created at Stanford University. We know that sexual violence is nuanced, and our prevention initiatives need to address that nuance. Based on our work, we know that most incidents of sexual assault involve someone who is known to the victim/survivor. According to data from Association of American Universities (AAU) Climate survey (2019) on Sexual Misconduct 78% of Pitt students who experienced sexual violence report the assault was perpetrated by someone they were in a relationship with.   

We also know that sex, sexuality, and sexual violence have much stigma attached. To support survivors of sexual violence as well as prevent future incidents, we need to address that ess that stigma, and we do that by having dialogues about these topics. We believe that by talking about complex issues, we can build connection, and that connection can create meaningful change on our campus and beyond.  Conversation circles are a community building tool.  Circle Up provides a safe space for participants to build communication skills, learn from each other, and create a more connected campus. 

Creating a more connected community also means allowing for conversations about relationships to extend beyond those related to sexual relationships. We have developed Circles to address a variety of relationships including sexual, romantic, platonic, familial, and professional.  Back to Top

What are “Circles?” 

Exactly as the name suggestions, Circles involved participants sitting in a circle facing one another, having a conversation. Each circle is guided by a trauma-informed, trained facilitator, who utilizes carefully designed discussion guides to ensure conversations are kept on topic and safe throughout. Participants are encouraged to journal their thoughts throughout the circle with various prompts given by the facilitator and each participant is given a journal to take with them to continue exploring the topics discussed int he circle.  

We are continuing to develop circles based on the needs of the organizations we are partnering with and welcome partnership in developing a circle that will help your organization become more connected.  Back to Top

Circle Topics 

Our circles address a wide array of topics such as:

  • Sexual agency
  • Consent
  • Boundaries
  • Healthy relationships
  • Belonging
  • Workplace culture

Who is Circle Up for? 

Everyone! Circle Up was piloted with Undergraduate Students, however, we have developed circles for Faculty and Staff and as well as Graduate & Professional Students. Back to Top

Our “Why” 

Too many members of our Pitt community have been impacted by sexual misconduct.  The results of the Association of American Universities (AAU) Climate survey (2019) on Sexual Misconduct found that almost 26% of undergraduate women and 30% of trans and nonbinary students reported experiencing sexual violence during their time at the University of Pittsburgh.  In early 2020 the University opened the Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Office.  This office is deeply committed to promoting a more respectful, safer campus environment where all community members feel respected and can thrive.  

A Pitt Seed 2.0 grant provided the funding for Circle Up to be piloted in the 2022 – 23 academic year. We built Circle Up metrics based on where we saw concerns from the 2019 AAU climate survey. Participants reported a significant rise in comfort-level using University and community resources, expressing their needs in sexual and romantic relationships, and feeling empowered to end campus sexual violence. This demonstrates that Circle Up is building trust between the institution and students and helping students navigate their relationships with more agency. When students are focused on their own agency and the agency of their partners and practicing direct communication, they are shifting the norms of the college experience.   

How To Get Involved 

Circle Up circles are open to students, faculty and staff across the university. To request a circle for your group or organization please fill out this online form.

If you have questions, please reach out to Dev Hayostek, lead prevention educator, or Carrie Benson, director of prevention and education. Back to Top

Learn more about Circle Up:

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