Op-ed: Opening the window

Casting a light on domestic abuse
By Victoria Lane
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October was Domestic Violence Prevention Month and national conversation is ablaze. Trickling down, the conversation found its way to Democracy Plaza at IUPUI.

Barely seen, barely heard. Under a breezeway, a small group gathered in a circle. 

Recovering from a stormy day, the sun peeked out from behind the clouds.

Trevor Potts, a communications professor with bright blond curls stood in the middle of a humdrum crowd, throwing statistics at students and passersby.

“1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime,” Potts said.

The crowd looked on. People walked by, aimlessly. Thrusting her head into the crowd, a woman with a backpack listened. Seconds later, she backed out. Shaking her head with a scowl, she walked away. 
Domestic violence doesn’t gather the same response as the fire and brimstone preachers. There was no mob forming, clawing for answers and clamoring for a reason that this global disease exists. 

Questioning the audience, the man pleaded with the crowd for questions and answers.

The small group grew even smaller, isolated as the sun retreated.

“Does anyone have something to say, any questions to ask?” Potts asked multiple times.

“Some women like being hit,” someone said.

Clouds had gathered. Wind blew into the crowd.

From a weathered chair, an older woman told her story. A survivor, emerging from years of domestic violence. Controlled and abused, ashamed and fighting to survive, she persevered.

Leaves scooted across the pavement.

“How could you let that happen?” she had been asked as many who are the victims of domestic violence often are. Just ask the new wife of Ray Rice. Victim blaming, a key component to downplaying atrocities, is not the only thing victims of domestic violence face.

Domestic violence contributes to poor health for many survivors. Survivors face high rates of depression, sleep disturbances, anxiety, flashbacks and other emotional distress.

The sun’s rays pierced through as she grew louder. Her story represented those who are able to get away.

Others are not so lucky.

Women experience more than 4 million physical assaults and rapes because of their partners, and men are victims of nearly 3 million physical assaults. Rather than asking a victim why they allow themselves to be hurt, she posed a question to the abusers.

“Why is it not your responsibility not to hurt others?” she asked.

Every year, 1 in 3 women who is a victim of homicide is murdered by her current or former partner.

But the woman is hopeful.

“There are no problems in this world, we are all each the solution,” she said.

Empowered by the survivor’s story, IUPUI student Rachel Akemon reflected on the culture of domestic violence and the impact talking about issues of domestic violence and sexual assault, at events such as this, can have – even for those who have not experienced it themselves.

“It was empowering for me to hear survivors speak up in such a public setting. I feel that those brave people will inspire others to come forward and tell their stories and how they think domestic violence can end from their firsthand experience,” said Akemon.

“We’re constantly being told the signs of these relationships but people continue to dismiss them when they’re actually happening. I liked how we discussed how to help out friends who could possibly be in an abusive relationship,” Akemon continued.

Echoing her sentiments, fellow IUPUI student Anthony Vilhauer participated in the Domestic Violence Awareness event with an optimistic perspective especially as it relates to accessibility of resources on campus.

“There seems to be more of an openness on campus to resources. I feel that way as a young man but I am not in the shoes of women. I feel [IUPUI] is a safe environment to talk about things,” said Vilhauer.

While the issue of domestic violence might pass from the forefront of national media, the conversation has to continue from one small campus corner to another until the violence ends.

It is here, but it is stifled.

It is here, but it is hidden.

It is here, but it is not talked about.

“You have to love yourself, you have to find yourself valuable,” the older woman reminded everyone as the event concluded.

The crowd emerged from the breezeway and the sun came out.