Women’s Resource Center sponsors Domestic Violence Awareness Month

When Professor Rini Bhattacharya Mehta was in India filming her movie “Post 489A: Shades of Domestic Violence,” she noticed one thing about the women that she interviewed: They had very little in common. Mehta’s observations led her to believe that domestic violence knows no bounds; it can touch anyone’s life, regardless of social class, ethnicity, religion, wealth or geographic location.

“The film focuses on the complex problem of domestic violence within a democratic society in a country that is way more diverse than the United States,” said Mehta, professor of comparative and world literature. “The fact that modernity and globalization cannot solve every problem in the world is both depressing and thought-provoking, and should make us think twice before we offer a global solution to a problem.”

Mehta’s film, which was screened to an audience of professors, students and other University employees at the University Women’s Resource Center on Oct. 10, is one of the many events planned by the Resource Center in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. 

Throughout the month, the Center is working to raise awareness about domestic violence, help students deal with domestic violence in their lives and prevent future incidences. 

According to the Domestic Violence Resource Center, one out of every four women experiences some form of domestic violence in her life. Rachel Storm, assistant director of the Center, said many are surprised to hear how many people are affected by domestic violence.

“In the ‘80s women were seeing that a lot of veterans were getting lots of plaques and memorials showing how many men died in the war,” Storm said. “It is not that these women didn’t find that appropriate, but they just had the recognition that if they listed all the names who died at the hands of domestic violence, the list would be even longer.”

For students that find themselves in abusive relationships or students coming from a home with domestic violence, the Women’s Resource Center offers counseling sessions and hosts other events to help victims feel more confident in themselves, such as the Love Your Body Spa Day, which is scheduled to take place on Oct. 16, Storm said. Other services include the Domestic Violence Awareness walk in the Homecoming parade on Oct. 25 and a Candlelight Vigil on Oct. 23 recognizing all those who have died due to domestic abuse. 

Onni Gust, research associate at the University, attended Mehta’s film screening and emphasized the importance of raising awareness and encouraging conversation about domestic violence.

“It will have an impact on how people understand their own relationships and give them a better framework for understanding and thinking about their rights,” Gust said. “Whilst I think it’s most important to offer support and a way out to the victims of domestic violence, it is also important to address the deeper causes that lead to domestic violence.”

Storm and volunteers at the Women’s Resource Center have organized a list of events that aims to do just that. Storm said she specifically hopes to address the causes of domestic violence by aiming programming at parents and their children. By eliminating stereotypes and encouraging equality early on in child development, Storm said she hopes to see a reduction in domestic violence.

“Women are often raised and socialized within a culture that says that women are subservient, that women are expected to be unassertive and that women are expected to be care-taking and put their needs last,” Storm said. “Then men have this ‘bottle-up your emotions’ socialization, and we wonder why there is violence. I believe that the source of domestic violence starts from a very young age.”

Storm said students on campus may be affected by domestic violence in a variety of ways. Abuse can be found within straight relationships as well as same-sex relationships and can occur within any social class, ethnicity and religion.

“We try to ensure that the events and programming are diverse because we know that social identity doesn’t bear much on domestic violence and that domestic violence affects everyone,” Storm said. “But social identity may impact how someone is able to access resources if they are experiencing domestic violence.”

In some cases, coming to the University may be the first time that they are away from domestic violence, Storm said.

“Whereas in other places we might say that (domestic violence) has to exist within a home, here on the University campus domestic violence is relevant because students might not only be in abusive relationships here … but they might also be carrying with them the trauma of ongoing domestic violence at home,” Storm said. “We do a lot of work to also define what a healthy relationship is, not just what a troubling relationship is.”

Mehta said the awareness events at the University will have a strong impact on students. 

“It is encouraging to see the involvement of so many wonderful young minds in spreading the message against domestic violence and other social injustices,” Mehta said. “Such processes of inculcating positive values for social justice and resisting ignorance are worthy of the tradition of this great public university.”

MaryCate can be reached at [email protected]