Addressing Relationship Violence in Schools


Since its inception in June 2020, the Instagram account @gburgsurvivors has amassed over one thousand followers and posted almost two hundred times. Created by Grace Verbrugge, a Minnesota native and senior at Gettysburg College, the platform grants a space for people to anonymously share their experiences with sexual misconduct at the school and provides resources to change its policies. 


This account is one of many within the University Survivors Movement (USM), an international coalition of Instagram pages focused on ending sexual violence across university campuses. With the creation of @womenatbreck last year, incidents involving sexual harassment and misconduct prove to be a pressing issue in college and high school, highlighting the need for alliances like USM and extracurricular clubs like Beyond Breck.


“It was surprising to us that we don’t talk about it at all at school, so we wanted to make a space to have these conversations that are a lot of times considered taboo or not school appropriate,” Co-founder Jess Beastrom said. Starting off as an Interest to Action between club leaders Jess, Elise Penn, Aditi Nadkarni, and Kalyn Washington last year, Beyond Breck has expanded into an X-block and current club that addresses relationship violence within Breck and beyond. 


These meetings can have a great impact on the surrounding community, something which Grace Verbrugge knows all too well. “These issues are only awkward and uncomfortable because we allow them to be, but being able to feel safe and reaching out to talk about this can save lives,” she says. As someone who has experienced sexual violence in the past, Grace turned to activism, where she focused on advocating against teen dating violence, even speaking at the state capitol and working with the MN Department of Health. By the time she graduated high school, Grace knew she had to bring her passion to college. Her creation of the Gettysburg Survivors Instagram page introduced her to USM, which she has been a part of as Co-coordinator for Outreach since July 2020. 


What started as a few similar accounts has turned into something much greater. USM is now an international network of university survivor accounts, which specializes in coordinating protests, calling for policy changes, and offering resources to other programs. “That’s really where [USM] came from, that need for student activists to have their institutions take them seriously, and we filled it,” Grace said. Since it began in 2020, their work has been highlighted in Buzzfeed, Refinery 29, CNN, and CBS. 


Despite consisting mostly of collegiate accounts, USM supports a number of high schools around the country. However, this presents additional challenges because school administrations have more influence over their efforts. “When you’re in high school, the institution has a lot more power over you, so we see student activism in high school is quelled much faster,” Grace says, “that’s not something universities can do in quite the same way.”  As a result, USM offers high school activists advice on how to address their schools in a way that maintains their safety and civil rights, even providing legal counseling if necessary. As for Beyond Breck, Grace says, “Don’t be afraid to take a stand.”


In the beginning, Beyond Breck struggled with attendance through COVID-19 and online school, but it finally found its footing when it became an X-block last school year. Last semester, Elise, Jess, Aditi, and Kalyn were able to host multiple meetings about issues in the Breck community and more broad social and political topics. Attendance increased, and the number of male-identified students doubled. “I think more people in the past year have become more conscious about injustices happening and are more willing to get involved,” Elise explained.


Overall, the response toward Beyond Breck has been positive. At first, there were disheartening comments and mocking jokes directed toward the club and its purpose, but Beyond Breck continued to host meetings and make a name for itself, especially with the creation of @womenatbreck. “It was eye-opening,” Jess said, “that account made it seem very real and verified that this stuff happens at Breck too.” While Beyond Breck existed before this account, it became a topic of conversation within the club and inspired action steps toward making changes within the school.


As for the future, Elise, Kalyn, Aditi, and Jess want Beyond Breck to become a staple in the community capable of making a difference. Becoming a part of normal vernacular and discussion around the school is ultimately its end goal, like the SDIC. “It could become less like we are the leaders and more like everyone makes this club what it is,” Aditi said. 


If anyone needs support either with activism or a space to share their experiences, check out the University Survivors Movement at @weareusm, ACLU website (, the MN Coalition Against Sexual Assault (, and of course @beyondbreck on Instagram. “There’s nothing wrong with reaching out,” Grace says as her final piece of advice. The leaders of Beyond Breck remind us that they are always a support system and that “it’s really important to keep engaging and encouraging these conversations, especially if it makes people uncomfortable because they do need to be talked about.”