“Every 15 seconds a woman is abused,” Jackie Deitch-Stackhouse, coordinator of the office of Anti-Violence Initiatives, said. “It’s important that everybody knows that these issues exist.”
In this vein, the College held its first Domestic Violence Awareness Week from Oct. 18 to 22. Deitch-Stackhouse, along with seven student organizations and individual volunteers, created the program with the goal of educating the campus community about the dangers of domestic and dating violence.
“Dating and domestic violence are issues that are very pervasive,” Deitch-Stackhouse said. “A lot of people think of dating violence or domestic violence in terms of adult relationships and not teen and young adult relationships.” She noted that the statistics are very high among young adults ages 16-24, which is why it is so important to raise awareness at the College.
Throughout the week, purple ribbons were tied to trees and lamp posts around campus by individual volunteers, and posters with facts and statistics, made by the Domestic Violence Awareness Week planning committee, were placed on stakes and lined the pathway from Eickhoff Hall to Loser Hall. All participating organizations created banners, which were hanging in Brower Student Center for the entire week.
Participating student organizations included Women in Learning and Leadership (WILL), the White Ribbon Campaign, which works to end violence against women, the Gay Union of Trenton State at The College of New Jersey (GUTS), Amnesty International, Lambda Theta Alpha and Lambda Theta Phi. Womanspace, Mercer County’s non-profit agency for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, also came to the coffee house to provide general information to students.
WILL and the Women’s Center organized a dramatic three-part event that they hoped would get the message out about domestic violence to more people, especially men, according to Kristen Hands, executive chair of WILL. The first part involved leaving empty chairs in classrooms on Tuesday to symbolize the invisible aspects of domestic and dating violence.
Also on Tuesday, members from both groups were made up to look like victims of abuse, with bruises on their faces and scratches on their arms. These women wore stickers that said, “Ask me how it happened,” to encourage open conversation about the realities of domestic violence. This activity symbolized the visible aspects of domestic and dating violence.
According to Desiree Bryant, a freshman math education major and a member of the Women’s Center, no one asked her about what happened to her arm, which she had wrapped a bandage around to simulate burns from her husband spilling boiling water on her. “People gave me looks, but no one actually said anything,” she said. Bryant said this proves that people are afraid to talk about the subject of domestic violence.
WILL and the Women’s Center also organized a Die-In, at which 11 women simulated their deaths on Friday at 12:10 p.m. For 25 minutes, the women sprawled over Quimby’s Prairie and the surrounding sidewalks, holding signs with statistics of domestic and dating violence. This symbolized the women who have died as a result of domestic and dating violence.
The Die-In was originally scheduled for Tuesday at 12:10 p.m., but the date was changed due to rainy weather. Bryant thinks that since the event was pushed back until Friday, it may not have had the same effect. She said that with people leaving for Fall Break, coupled with the fact that there aren’t as many people on campus on Fridays, fewer people may have witnessed the event than if it were on Tuesday.
On Oct. 21 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., the six student organizations and one off-campus organization came together to turn Brower Student Center room 202 West into a coffee house for the night. Information tables throughout the room provided information for visitors while guitarists and an open microphone allowed for student expression.
Hands said that she felt the week was a success. “It did its job. People got the message. The word got out,” she said.
The White Ribbon Campaign held a pledge signing in Brower Student Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Monday through Thursday. The pledge, titled “Men Against Violence Against Women,” was signed by 111 men.
According to Ryan English, co-president of the White Ribbon Campaign, the men who signed the pledge vowed to stop the violence and not be violent themselves. “We need men to help end the violence,” he said.
“It’s very important that people know this happens,” Edgar Rodriguez, junior international business major, said. “In Latin culture it happens and people don’t realize.” Rodriguez said he also felt that the activism against violence is the only way the violence will end. “If nothing is done, it will just keep happening,” he said.
There were also men who came to the table, read the pledge, and refused to sign, according to Caitlin Stinneford, co-president of the White Ribbon Campaign. “That’s just scary,” she said.
Stinneford also said that the White Ribbon Campaign will continue its fight against violence against women throughout the year. “We want to reach out to the men, so we are going to be holding bathroom campaigns and other things like that,” she said.
Amnesty International created a Painted Hand banner on Monday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Brower Student Center, as a demonstration of support to end violence against women. Students dipped their hands in blue, black, and purple paint, and left their imprints on the banner.
Hand prints were used because Amnesty International’s slogan is “The Power of Change is in our Hands,” according to Jeanette Franko, president of Amnesty International at the College, and Jessi Boston, N.J. State Stop Violence Against Women coordinator. Franko and Boston said Amnesty International began a 10-year campaign to stop violence against women around the world in the spring.
Informational centerpieces were also placed on the tables in Eickhoff Hall. Bryant, who created these centerpieces, said she noticed that people were reading them. “I’m glad I made some impact,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter what race, what ethnicity, what class or what income level people come from, because nobody is immune from domestic violence,” Deitch-Stackhouse said. She said she hopes people will learn to speak up about domestic and dating violence after the awareness week, and also realize that the office of Anti-Violence Initiatives is on campus to help those who are or may become victims.