Students spread domestic violence awareness in campus relationships


Jessica Jutzi

Participates wrote on cutout paper hands, as one of the many arts and crafts at the Peace Jam, music for a world without violence, held by The Independent Media Center in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month on Saturday, October 8th, 2016.

By Andrea Flores, Staff Writer

According to a study conducted in 2000, one in four students had been physically abused while in a relationship as a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The study found 87 percent of students experienced some level of abuse while in a relationship during college. Only 13 percent sought help. Eight percent filed a formal complaint with the Office for Student Conflict Resolution and just two percent filed a police report.

“It’s important for Students Against Sexual Assault to create solidarity around this issue, so that people can feel safe here and have people that can make people feel safe,” said Sarah Graves in an email, co-president of Students Against Sexual Assault.

There are a variety of events being hosted throughout the month to raise awareness of abuse within relationships and to create solidarity.

On Oct. 8, the Women’s Resource Center hosted “Peace Jam,” a new, free annual kick-off event for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

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“Because abuse within relationships is often an extremely emotional and difficult issue, we wanted to ensure that we began our month with a day devoted to uplift and coming together as a community committed to ending domestic violence and supporting survivors in our lives,” said Rachel Storm in an email, assistant director at the Women’s Resource Center.

This event included performances from live bands, activities as a part of their resource fair and free food for all ages. These fun and interactive activities featured local campus and community organizations that work to end domestic violence and offer support for those experiencing abuse, Storm said.

Students will have the opportunity to speak about their own experiences with domestic violence at the “It Happens Here,” event, taking place Oct. 11.

“This is the first ‘It Happens Here’ event that we are holding for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which means that people have submitted stories about their experiences with domestic violence, dating violence and gendered violence,” Graves said. “It’s important to know that people here, on this campus, are living through these experiences every day.”

domestic-violence-at-university-01Jacob Singleton

For Students Against Sexual Assault, Graves said the mission of this event is to promote awareness around the issue of dating and domestic violence and create a safe place for survivors and supporters on campus.

The Panhellenic Council is a co-sponsor of this event. In addition to their assistance with planning and executing the event, they also contributed financially by providing goods to sell. One hundred percent of the sales are going to Rape Advocacy Counseling and Education Services and Courage Connection.

“When I saw that It Happens Here was happening for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I knew that Panhellenic had to assist in any way possible,” Bailey Burns, vice president of programming with the Panhellenic Council, said in an email. “The message is too important to not share with the sorority community.”

As stories are submitted anonymously, it cannot be said whether or not any of the readings were written by sorority women, unless the writer decides to read their story themselves.

“As a community of more than 3,000 college women, (Domestic Violence Awareness Month) means a lot to Panhellenic. Dating and domestic violence can occur in a multitude of ways, and leaving a relationship is not simple,” Burns said. “There are often cycles of abuse in dating and domestic violence, and being able to know that someone struggling with this is not alone is powerful.”

To President of the Panhellenic Council, Samantha Rothman, this event is extremely important to the Greek community.

Domestic Violence is often grouped in larger categories when it comes to classifying issues and with that, it doesn’t always receive the necessary attention it demands,” Rothman said in an email.

“Ultimately, I think by putting our backing behind an event like this, we can send a signal to our community that this issue is important, and with that, the conversations that need to take place begin to happen,” she said.  

Both Burns and Rothman are FYCARE facilitators. They said they see a connection between their work with the Women’s Resource Center as facilitators and their position in the Greek community.

Being involved with the (Women’s Resource Center) has opened my eyes to the fact there are a plethora of issues facing a wide variety of individuals,” Rothman said. “Our council has tried our absolute best to discuss a variety of ideas, and continues to do so.”

Following “It Happens Here,” “Truth to Power” will come to the Courtyard Cafe at the Union Oct. 12. Poet, vocalist, and cultural producer Tasleem Jamila will perform.

She is sought after for her captivating energy as a host, professional skills as a cultural producer and educating activist as a workshop facilitator,” Storm said.  

The keynote event for Domestic Violence Awareness Month will be Oct. 18 at Unit One Allen Hall, featuring Byron Hurt.

“For more than 20 years, Hurt has been using his craft, his voice, and his writings to broaden and deepen how people think about gender violence, race, music, visual media and food justice,” Storm said. “As an activist, Byron has served as a gender violence prevention educator.”

In addition, the Women’s Resource Center will be screening the following movies: “The Mask You Live In,” “Once Were Warriors,” “Beyond Beats and Rhymes” and “Crime After Crime.”

A Clothesline Public Art Project will be displayed at Alma Mater, along with Charlotte Prieu’s art exhibition Tête-À-Tête, which will be shown the entire month at the Women’s Resources Center.

To end Domestic Violence Awareness Month, there will be a Candlelight Vigil to honor survivors and mourn lost loved ones outside Alma Mater on Oct. 27.

Come light a candle for victims and survivors, say a few words, and listen to our collective stories of struggle, survival, and solidarity in the face of domestic violence—as well as our work to end violence of all forms,” Storm said.

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