By Sydney Bucholtz
The National Domestic Violence Hotline released that an average of 24 people per minute are victims of physical violence, stalking, or rape by an “intimate partner in the United States.” This amounts to more than 12 million men and women over the span of one year.
In an academic setting, the University of Michigan published that 21 percent of college students reported having experienced domestic violence by a current partner, and 32 percent experienced it by a previous partner.
In two studies referenced by PolitiFact, the total number of deaths of American soldiers lost in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars plus the civilian casualties of 9/11 totals 9,848. Meanwhile, data from Northeastern criminology professor James Fox cited “the number of women killed by intimate partners” at 15,462. (This statistic includes unsolved homicide cases with strong suspicion of being linked to domestic partners.)
Although domestic violence is a subject which warrants a need for consciousness during all points of the year, Canisius is currently especially under way of boosting awareness for Domestic Violence Awareness Month through the Counseling Center and other newly-established organizations.
Charita Price, a licensed mental health counselor at Canisius’ Counseling Center, discussed the essentiality of observing this month, being that that one in three women and one in four men will be involved in a violent relationship in their lifetime, and young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are at three times greater risk.
“While the majority of our students are not married or living with a partner domestically, domestic violence is still an issue that too many encounter,” said Price. “When we observe the month here at Canisius, we tend to focus on educating students on dating and relationship violence and work to educate students on respectful and healthy relationships.”
“When young people hear the word violence, they typically think of physically aggressive behaviors, which can sometimes be true. However, emotionally abusive behaviors can sometimes be difficult to identify,” Price said. She shared that the Counseling Center aims to educate students that controlling behaviors, like checking a partner’s emails, not “allowing” a partner to do something, an ex-partner remaining in contact against the will of another partner, or emotionally abusive language are also unhealthy forms of abuse. “Emotional scars can be just as damaging as physical ones,” said Price.
“Getting out of an abusive relationship can be difficult,” Price added. “Domestic and relationship abuse are oftentimes confusing for the victim. The person that is supposed to love and care for me is harming me – that just doesn’t make sense to most of us. I would want a survivor to know that they are deserving of a safe and happy life. That they are not alone, support is available to them. If someone is currently in an abusive relationship, I would encourage them to get to a supportive resource, such as the Counseling Center, or our on-campus Crisis Services Advocate so that they can figure out the best way to navigate the situation.”
“While most outreach surrounding sexual violence is rightfully very victim-centered,” Price continued, “I don’t want us to lose sight that on the other end is the abuser. Speaking to the abuser, I would want them to know to please get help for themselves; there are healthier alternatives to their controlling and aggressive behaviors. Learn these tools now, so that you may have healthy and loving relationships. If you don’t want to seek help at the College, the Counseling Center can provide you with off-campus resources.”
Price additionally described how students within the campus community can be helpful to domestic violence awareness and prevention by merely looking out for one another. “Call your friends out if you witness them doing or about to do something inappropriate,” Price encouraged. “If you think someone is experiencing abuse, be non-judgmental, and be there for them to encourage them to get support. Relationship violence is never the victim’s fault!” She also added that sexual violence is a reportable offence, and that students can use the Canisius portal’s bias reporting tool to report any incidents involving sexual violence — even anonymously, if necessary. “Remember,” she said, “the goal is not to get anyone in ‘trouble,’ but to provide a level of safety for your friends and for our campus community at large. We want to end all types of violence on our campus. Everyone has a right to feel safe and protected.”
In fact, Canisius recently enacted a program called the Step Up! Griffs Peer Education Program in 2015, which provides students with the “ability to be the ambassadors for the messages of sexual violence awareness and prevention,” as Price said. Coupled with facilitating the Escalation Workshops, the Peer Educators also present the Step Up! Griffs Bystander Intervention Program. “If presenting is not something you are interested in, we also have Step Up! Griffs ambassadors assist at our outreach events, shared Price. “There is so much energy behind this movement. We are very proud of our Peer Educators and the work that they have done for the campus.”
Price encourages those interested in becoming a peer educator to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Ivy Wang, Counseling Center Outreach Coordinator, at email@example.com.
For as long as she can remember, Price said that Canisius has always observed Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It has evolved from a collaborative event with Amnesty International in which students made t-shirts with handprints and the statement “Stop Violence Against Women, the Power of Change is in your Hands,” to the Clothesline Project, to this year’s distribution of purple ribbons by Step Up! Griffs Peer Educators. Students will also receive resources regarding domestic violence, as well as information to promote this month.
“I think the College has a much more collaborative focus in regards to sexual violence (which includes domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and sexual assault) awareness and prevention,” Price said. Canisius’ Sexual Violence Prevention Team, comprised of representatives from the student body, Counseling Center, Public Safety, Athletics, Student Life and ROTC, “spearheads many of these initiatives now, which is ideal,” she said. “The more involvement we have, the better we can be at spreading the message.”
Price described that one of the programs being facilitated about this is the Escalation Workshop, designed by the One Love Foundation. “One Love was developed by the family of Yeardley Love, a University of Virginia lacrosse player who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend,” said Price. “This program educates students on the reality that relationship abuse typically starts off subtly, however it really can lead to dangerous consequences. Escalation consists of a film and interactive discussion facilitated by Step Up! Griffs Peer Educators. The workshop helps students identify the warning signs of an abusive relationship and empowers students to take action to speak up and step up when they are an observer of unhealthy behaviors or involved in an unhealthy relationship themselves.” A campus-wide Escalation Workshop is scheduled for February during Healthy Relationships Month.
Not only do these programs exist to educate about the true spectrum of abuse and mental health, but the Counseling Center now provides students with another highly accessible resource: “Pop-Up Drop-In.” Mike Cammarata, LMHC, described it as an “outreach program designed to engage students who do not access traditional counseling services. We hope this innovative outreach effort will provide brief, informal, and convenient opportunities for students to meet with with counselors at various sites across campus and thus reduce some barriers to seeking help.”
Cammarata described that “Pop-Up Drop-In” is designed to reach students who may be reluctant to access counseling services, may not know about counseling services, question whether they or someone they know could benefit from services, or have a general question about mental health. “The primary goal is to engage with students by meeting them where they are at and creating a less formal link to counseling support,” he said.
“In part,” Cammarata continued, “we were inspired by other college and university campuses offering similar opportunities for students, but primarily we were motivated and inspired to reach and help students who may have mental health concerns or questions for themselves or someone else and don’t know where to begin. We not only want to create a climate on campus that normalizes accessing mental health services, but also one that is in line with the Jesuit values of cura personalis and being men and women for others.”
“Pop-Up Drop-In” will be offered in Old Main room 209 (near Campus Ministry) on Mondays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., as well as in the Koessler Athletic Center room 227 (across from the weight room) on Wednesdays from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. The Counseling Center also offers daily drop-in hours from 3 – 4 p.m. These resources aim for students to have more accessible assistance with mental health, but if an emergency arises involving you or someone you know, contact Crisis Services or dial 911.