Domestic violence on campus still taboo

By Andrea Flores, Staff Writer

Despite October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, some believe discussing domestic abuse is still widely taboo.

“We still need to come a long way in overcoming the taboo of a private relationship,” said Psychology Professor Nicole Allen. “There are ways to ask people how they are doing.”

After further research on domestic violence, Allen found that people experience shame and stigma when a relationship becomes abusive, leading to their further isolation. Additionally, she said that intimate partner violence is seen as a private matter.

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.

Statistically, women ages 16 to 24 are at higher risk of experiencing domestic violence.

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    Allen has researched intimate partner violence for the past 21 years. In her findings, she notes that there are different sectors in the community that address domestic violence differently.

    “One finding, when important stakeholders come together in councils, they form stronger relationships with each other than they would’ve otherwise had,” Allen said. “When communities work together, they can promote important changes in policy and practice.”

    Isak Griffiths, executive director of Courage Connection, believes that conversation is the key to ending domestic violence.

    “(Domestic violence) impacts all of society,” Griffiths said. “We can generate change, but we have to want to.”

    Griffiths noted that domestic violence is different on a college campus than in other communities.

    “Everyone handles it in their own way,” Griffiths said. “For students, it’s hard to be away from home and suffer while others are going through similar things.”

    Allen said another factor for domestic violence is the highly social atmosphere.

    “On college campuses, social manipulations can be really powerful when social relationships are really paramount at this time in life,” Allen said.

    Both Griffiths and Allen believe that the best way for supporting survivors is to believe them. Victim blaming is never the answer, they said.

    “Be there as a supporter whether or not she is ready to end the relationship,” Allen said. “Don’t be conditional in your support; that’ll validate their experience and normalize the experience.”

    Jaya Kolisetty, interim assistant director of Rape Advocacy, Counseling, and Education Services (RACES), said that students are fortunate to have more options in the resources available to them for support.

    Individuals have the option of going through student discipline and not through the legal system, according to Kolisetty.

    “In how we hear about domestic violence, there are similarities between a college campus and the general community,” she said. “There is pressure to avoid the abuser in this small community.”

    RACES provides a 24-hour crisis hotline for survivors of dating and domestic violence. Supporters may also call this hotline.

    In addition to the hotline,  the group also provides medical advocacy for survivors, where the student could be accompanied to the hospital for emotional support. Students can also take advantage of the group’s in-person crisis intervention services.

    Courage Connection also has a 24-hour hotline for those affected by sexual assault, as well as an emergency shelter for survivors. Court advocacy is provided to help survivors navigate the legal system.

    For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, RACES has been involved in the events on campus to provide in-person crisis intervention. RACES encourages all students involved to go to these events.

    “If someone is triggered, there’s someone around for them to talk to,” Kolisetty said.

    Because of the state budget impasse, RACES had to cut some services from their program. These include legal advocacy, counseling and prevention education.

    “Some services are growing again,” Kolisetty said. “We’re in the process of developing a long-term plan.”

    Throughout the month of October, there are a variety of different events being hosted at the University for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. These events aim to create solidarity around the issue that is so little talked about but highly prevalent on campus.

    Allen believes that the events from Domestic Violence Awareness Month are important to spread awareness. She said it’s useful to have a month to focus on the issue and break down the silence. However, she believes more can be done.

    “I feel like every month should be (Domestic Violence Awareness Month),” she said. “I hope when November comes, people focus on the issue even more. ‘How am I going to step in and step up?’”

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