Students pay tribute to abuse victims

If you happened to be walking by Brower Student Center on Thursday around 11:30 a.m., you may have stopped to notice over 30 students lying in the grass. These students, who remained there for 20 minutes, were participating in the “Die-In,” a part of Domestic Violence Awareness Week in which students represent those who died as a result of domestic violence.

The event was one element of a three-part event titled “The Many Faces of Domestic Violence,” part of Domestic Violence Awareness Week that is run in cooperation with the office of Anti-Violence Initiatives. The event was advertised in The Signal, on kiosks in the student center and through a group, generating interest for over 100 students.

“This year is a lot more visual,” Jen Braverman, junior art and education major, said. Braverman is a member of Women in Leadership and Learning (WILL) and was executive chair of the event last year.

The event is in its third year, but Braverman said that this year, the event is “really taking off.”

“We branched off to a lot of organizations to get as many people as possible,” she said. WILL helped sponsor the event and reached out to sports teams, clubs and Greek organizations for help.

According to Kari Osmond, sophomore women’s and gender studies and political science major, as well as the program executive for the event, the first part of the event was called “simulated injuries.”

Students met on Thursday morning to receive makeup-drawn black eyes. Over 15 students participated and were asked to research a specific story or use one of someone they know. They wore a name tag that read, “Ask me what happened.”

“This part is about honoring different individuals and stories,” Jackie Deitch-Stackhouse, coordinator of the office of Anti-Violence Initiatives and of the event, said.

The second part of the event was called the “empty seat” or the “invisible signs of domestic violence.” Students showed up to get a plaque that had a startling statistic on it. These students volunteered to skip class and put the statistic in their seat to represent victims who had to miss school, work or other priorities because of domestic violence.

“It represents those that can’t speak or things that happen behind closed doors,” Deitch-Stackhouse said.

“Those without injuries are to represent victims of verbal, financial and mental abuse – the types that you really don’t see,” Braverman said.

The kiosk presented in the student center gave statistics, contact information, personal stories and other general facts about domestic violence, including warning signs and ways to get help. It also displayed pictures of students from the year before who had volunteered for the “simulated injury.” Their pictures were laminated and attached to a statistic and put up all over Bliss Hall last year.

Finally, the last part of the event was the “Die-In,” which, according to Osmond, “is a half hour in front of the student center to represent those killed by domestic violence.”

The students who participated were asked to wear black and were given black shirts made specifically for the event. As they lied in the grass, they were asked not to talk to anyone and literally act as though they were dead, while students, faculty and administration looked on. Some even stopped to read the statistics that the participating students put on them while they were lying down.

Deitch-Stackhouse said that the three phases “demonstrate the continuum of domestic violence.”

“The reason I wanted to do this was to put a face to the countless men and women who are victims of domestic violence,” Blakeley Decktor, senior women’s and gender studies and international studies major, said.

Decktor was also on the planning committee and is a member of WILL and president of Voices of Planned Parenthood.

“We need to send a dramatic message. It forces people to not be able to just look away,” she said.

Joleen Ong, junior international studies major, has a strong interest in the cause.

“Domestic violence is almost like a disease because it’s like you are stuck in a frame of mind,” she said.

Ong used to intern in a women’s rights information center and had the opportunity to sit down and hear some victims’ stories.

“It is hard to understand unless you meet the person and hear their story,” she said.

Michelle Gervasi, junior psychology and sociology major, sat at the table outside Brower during the “Die-In” to help answer questions, give out information and ribbons, and raffle off gift baskets in support of the cause.

Gervasi was also part of the planning committee and said that they “have been working with the office of Anti-Violence Initiatives and (Deitch-Stackhouse) for over a month.”

The event, according to Deitch-Stackhouse, was to help “recognize domestic violence as a human problem . (and that) anyone can be a potential victim.”

“That is one thing domestic violence doesn’t do – it doesn’t discriminate,” she added.

The event did draw some male participants. “We lose out when we think it’s just about women,” Deitch-Stackhouse said.

“People involved are from all over (campus); its not just WILL girls,” Osmond said.

Dave Parziale, sophomore women’s and gender studies major and a member of PRISM, was one of the male participants.

He took part in the “simulated injury” aspect of the event. He also spoke at the “Love Your Body, Love Your Partner” show at the Rathskellar, which featured speakers, musicians, performers and poets to help raise awareness.

Parziale said that domestic violence wasn’t just “the typical wife” getting abused by her husband and that he wanted to “pick an avenue that wasn’t done before.”

Deitch-Stackhouse said that “even if we don’t touch every student,” she hopes that people get something out of it.