Domestic violence week pulls no punches

To some, campus was a strange sight on Oct. 9 as students walked around with black eyes and lay in the grass as if dead, but these seemingly shocking occurences were part of Domestic Violence Awareness Week.

“We are not going to solve the problem of domestic violence through awareness-raising activities,” Jackie Deitch-Stackhouse, director of the Office of Anti-Violence Initatives at the College, said.

“But any way we can help enlighten people and get them interested in this issue, we’ve moved in the right direction,” she added.

The office tried to achieve this objective by hosting Domestic Violence Awareness Week, which occurred from Oct. 8 to Oct. 13. A variety of events were planned, including a Domestic Violence Panel and a coffee house.

Steven Steinway, junior biology major and member of the Domestic Violence Week planning committee, said, “What was great about the events was that it was very interactive. Students were not just sitting there listening to speakers. There were interactive activities and powerful demonstrations.”

“A record number of students,” according to Deitch-Stackhouse, participated in “The Many Faces of Domestic Violence,” an all-day demonstration on Oct. 9. At least 85 students walked around campus with simulated injuries or put a placard on an empty seat in the classroom to “show the invisible nature of domestic violence,” Deitch-Stackhouse said.

A Die-In took place outside of Brower Student Center. Dressed in black, students lay on the lawn to simulate victims.

Freshman elementary education and English major Ruth Orama walked around campus with a simulated black eye on Oct. 9. Orama was very interested in participating in the week because, she said, “I was a witness to domestic violence as a child and the emotional scars are still with me today. I just hope that people become aware of this and realize what they may be doing to a loved one.”

She said, “Many (victims) hide their bruises, both physical and emotional, and as I was walking around campus with a visible effect, the reaction from people and the questions asked made me feel like I was helping people realize that horrible things like this still happen today to women, children and men.”

The diversity of victims was highlighted at numerous events, especially the Domestic Violence Panel, which hosted several speakers as well as student organization representatives. A detective from the Trenton Police Department and a domestic violence victim both spoke on Oct. 8. “We wanted to make sure it wasn’t all entertainment and that there was some education as well,” Deitch-Stackhouse said about the panel.

Steinway said, “The stereotype of domestic violence is that it is only toward women. Although this is the situation most of the time, there are other cases, (for example) male victims or between roommates. We wanted to show people it’s a serious and prevalent topic.”

A theme of the week was that “Men and Women Together Can Stop Domestic Violence.” This was most prevalent in the event on Oct. 10, the Co-Ed Game Night: Team Up Against Domestic Violence. Fraternities, sororities and various club sports sponsored interactive activities and games. There were also information tables there.

At information tables throughout the week, people had the opportunity to sign a petition of the Choice campaign. Signers pledged to not perform domestic violence, to stand up against such actions and to respect everyone.

The capstone event of the week was the coffee house on Oct. 11. It featured student poets and musicians. “I was really happy to see students dialoguing about such an important issue,” Deitch-Stackhouse said. “It makes (me) really proud of the campus community.”

The office of Anti-Violence Initiatives has planned a Domestic Violence Awareness Week in October since 2004, when the office was established. The planning committee had less than a month to plan out the week.

“The members have lots of drive. They turn out great stuff in a very short amount of time,” Deitch-Stackhouse said.

The goals of Domestic Violence Awareness Week are varied. But ultimately, Deitch-Stackhouse said, “This is one way of trying to create a campus environment that’s conducive to victims and survivors. Overall, we want people to know domestic violence is a human problem.”

Planning committee member and junior psychology major Jenna Meyerberg said, “I felt that Domestic Violence Awareness week was a great opportunity to reach a lot of people without lecturing or just giving away pamphlets. We got peoples’ attention, we got people involved and we got people aware of what domestic violence is and how they can stop it.”