New campaigns highlight domestic violence outreach

The Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education is promoting domestic violence awareness through events this month.

Second year Ph.D. student Nai-Chia Chen and  third year Ph.D. student Hsuan Lin gets their photo taken by sophomore Niti Gupta on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 on West Bank. The Aurora Center's

Chelsea Gortmaker

Second year Ph.D. student Nai-Chia Chen and third year Ph.D. student Hsuan Lin gets their photo taken by sophomore Niti Gupta on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 on West Bank. The Aurora Center’s “Healthy Relationships” social media photo campaign is a partnership with the Minnesota Student Association for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. (Gupta is a former Minnesota Daily employee.)

Ryan Faircloth

With Domestic Violence Awareness Month in full swing, campus representatives are working to shed light on an otherwise dark topic.

The University of Minnesota’s Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education is holding events throughout the month focused on healthy relationships and victims of domestic violence.

Taylor Roberts, a student coordinator with the Aurora Center, said the focus on sexual assault sometimes causes domestic violence to be ignored.

To start the conversation, she said she and another student coordinator, Prerna Subramanian, came up with an idea for a social media photo campaign.

The coordinators asked students what healthy relationships look like and then posted their photos on social media, Roberts said.

The idea, she said, was modeled after the Minnesota Student Association’s “how are you?” campaign, which ran last spring.

“The reason [we chose] healthy relationships is because we wanted to put a positive spin on what can be considered a very negative topic,” Subramanian said.

Last year, there were 34 domestic violence homicides in the state, according to a Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women report.

Sophie Glaesemann, a University global studies junior and campaign participant, said she thinks Aurora’s dissemination of positive messages through social media can influence people.

“If you can get the positive images and attitudes through peoples’ feeds … they’ll inevitably … internalize it,” she said.

Subramanian said she hopes the campaign will spur people to act as allies when they see someone suffering from domestic violence.

Student feedback on the media campaign has been positive so far, said Katie Eichele, director of the Aurora Center. She said since the campaign began, the center has seen an increase in traffic and likes to its social media pages.

“One of the things that we know about our students is they like to engage and be a part of changing the world,” Eichele said.

The center is also running the Silent Witness Project this month, which pays tribute to domestic violence homicide victims, she said.

Eichele said the project involves placing life-size wooden figures around campus, which represent Minnesota victims.

The figures are painted red and display descriptions of victims’ names, ages, hometowns and causes of death, Roberts said.

One of the models, Eichele said, displays the information of Ashley Hasti, a University medical school student killed by a University of California, Los Angeles gunman — her husband — last spring.

Roberts said student dormitories such as Sanford Hall, 17th Avenue Residence Hall and Frontier Hall have agreed to let them display the models in their lobbies.

Flyers explaining the project’s purpose accompany the displays along with trigger warnings, she said.

Roberts said she hopes outreach will help people realize the scope of domestic violence.

“Getting the word out there and making people’s voices heard and talking about the fact that domestic violence … happens to real people,” she said.