Yearlong efforts to fundraise and bring attention to the issue of domestic violence have seen an increase on campus and in the community during October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Bridget Diamond-Welch, assistant professor of political science, teaches a family violence class that looks at domestic violence and child abuse.
She said domestic violence is a type of interpersonal violence that happens between family members and those in intimate relationships.
“It’s not just physical,” Diamond-Welch said. “It’s also psychological, financial, emotional and basically what it boils down to is a system of power and control where one person in a relationship has power and maintains control over the other person through a variety of ways.”
Diamond-Welch said recognizing this month brings attention to an ongoing issue.
“It doesn’t just happen during October, but when we have ribbons and we have a month that’s put aside for it, people who might not normally pay attention to it, pay attention to it,” she said.
Spreading the word
Every year the criminal justice club hosts fundraisers to collect money and supplies for families affected by domestic violence.
Sierra Kamin, a first-year student studying psychology and criminal justice, is helping with the fundraiser this year. She said the club will stand in front of Hy-Vee and Walmart with a list of needs from Domestic Violence Safe Options Services in Vermillion.
The group will be in front of Walmart from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday and at Hy-Vee from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Kamin said.
“The shoppers buy anything on the list, they donate it to us and we give it to them,” Kamin said. “That way those who have been violated or assaulted have a different understanding of life.”
Kamin said she hopes the drive brings more awareness to the month and issue.
“This fundraiser definitely opens people’s eyes and it shows how well the community is giving back to people and how we’re kind souls here in Vermillion,” Kamin said.
Diamond-Welch said last year’s fundraiser was a success.
“The drive brought in, last year, $274.78, $65 in gift cards and enough supplies to serve approximately 65 to 85 families,” Diamond-Welch said.
Vermillion and USD also takes part in the Silent Witnesses program that began in 1990. The program is sponsored by DVSOS. The Silent Witnesses were set up in I.D. Weeks Library for two weeks and moved to the law school, where they’ll stay until Oct. 27.
Melissa Kay, a senior studying criminal justice with a minor in women, gender and sexuality studies, is running the program this year.
“It’s a way to keep victim’s memories alive,” Kay said. “It’s not just an abstract issue, it’s a concrete issue. It’s here in South Dakota, it’s local and it needs to be addressed.”
Desiree Johnson, executive director of the River City Domestic Violence Center in Yankton, SD, said they also use the month to educate people about the issue.
“The more that we’re educating the community on what domestic violence looks like and how to respond if you see something, say something, without putting yourself in harm’s way, how important that is,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the community response team tables are at Hy-Vee every night this month and have also tabled at USD. On Oct. 11, they had Audrie Mabrey, a domestic violence survivor, speak to the community.
Johnson said they want to remind the community that just because they might not see the violence, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
“People go home at the end of their day, and your home is your safe place,” Johnson said. “For a victim of domestic violence, that’s not the case.”
Myths and statistics
Johnson said the biggest myth she’s heard is domestic violence is a socioeconomic or women’s issue.
“We see people of all walks of life that come through our organization, all income levels, all different cultures,” she said.
About one in three women and one in four men fall victim to this issue, Diamond-Welch said.
According to a 2011 College Dating Violence and Abuse Poll, 43 percent of college women report experiencing some violent and abusive dating behaviors and more than one in five college women report physical abuse, sexual abuse or threats of physical violence.
The River City Domestic Violence Center works to help victims legally with protection orders and courtroom advocacy. They also offer parenting and safety planning classes, among others.
If a victim is in imminent danger, they can check in to the center’s Safe Haven.
“Sometimes people just need to vent,” Johnson said. “They don’t need any advice at all, they just need someone to hear them and to feel heard and to feel validated and we do a lot of that every single day.”
Johnson said she wants victims of domestic violence to know that there are resources for them, and domestic violence could lessen if society tolerated it less.
“We as a society need to be focusing on more of the preventative measures of teaching our children what healthy relationships look like so they’re not growing up and becoming a batterer or becoming a victim,” she said.
Diamond-Welch said there are great resources on campus, including the Student Counseling Center and Psychological Services Center.
“Power and control is not love,” Diamond-Welch said. “If someone is trying to control you or control your movements or your behaviors, that’s not love, that’s not a healthy relationship.”