University joins in nationwide program for violence awareness

by Fabiana Torreao

Facing statistics that show domestic violence as the number one cause of women’s visits to emergency rooms, communities across the nation are fighting to lower the numbers this month.
Organizations at the University are joining in the nationwide observation of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, setting up events to raise awareness and shed light on this often unseen problem.
“(This is important) because of the pervasiveness of domestic violence,” said Cari Michaels, associate director of the Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse, “because domestic violence affects people in all cultures, people of all economic backgrounds, people in all kinds of environments.”
The Program Against Sexual Violence, a campus victim advocacy program, hosts a domestic violence seminar Tuesday at Boynton Health Service. The seminar will consist of a 30-minute video called “Love is not Supposed to Hurt,” followed by a 30-minute discussion on relationship violence.
Students can associate better with the term “relationship violence” rather than “domestic violence,” which they associate with married couples, said Kelly Coughlan, the program’s executive assistant.
During the 1999-2000 school year, domestic violence was the second-most reported type of assault to the campus program. Of 185 sexual victimization cases, 36 were cases of domestic violence. Acquaintance sexual assault was the leading form of violence, with 43 cases reported.
This month’s events should offer support to victims and encourage them to come forward, said University Police Sgt. Jo Anne Benson.
“For most people it may not be happening to them, but it does probably affect other people that are in their lives,” Benson said. “Whether it’s a family member or a friend or an associate, they, themselves, can be a resource.”
The Institute on Domestic Violence in the African-American Community, housed in the School of Social Work, will offer a two-day domestic violence workshop at the Pilgrim Baptist Church in St. Paul on Oct. 20 and 21.
The institute’s director, Oliver Williams, said denial is one of the biggest problems associated with domestic violence.
Rev. Sharon L. Ellis, a Chicago police chaplain and a domestic violence survivor, will preach at the Sunday morning services following the workshop. Ellis said it is important to promote awareness from a theological perspective because the church has a responsibility to indiscriminately heal both victims and abusers.
“I think the church is an unique place to address both of these issues because the church is the one place where both the offender and the victim would be members,” Ellis said.