Northwestern Observes Domestic Violence Awareness Month

As October comes to a close and November begins, temperatures are getting colder and clothes are getting thicker. You can also expect to see Northwestern students becoming a little bit wiser on the subject of healthy relationships and violence prevention. This past month, Northwestern University recognized Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), a national event that was first observed in 1981. Especially active in both acknowledging and spreading awareness about DVAM, were two on campus organizations: Northwestern’s Center for Awareness, Response and Education (CARE) and the Alpha Chi Omega sorority.

Alpha Chi Omega hosted numerous events around campus to spark interest and conversation about relationships and domestic violence both within their sorority and all across campus. Alpha Chi’s national philanthropic cause is domestic violence awareness, and as such, the sorority wanted to make sure this month did not go unnoticed.

“It sounds like a very irrelevant term–it sounds like it’s not applicable to us, but it really is,” says Meera Patel, Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing for the Gamma Chapter of Alpha Chi Omega at Northwestern.

Alpha Chi made sure to express the relevance of DVAM throughout campus. Chapter members chalked the letters DVA, which stand for domestic violence awareness as a way of sparking questions among students and starting a campus wide conversation. Within the chapter, points were given to individual members for chalking various areas on campus in addition to posting Facebook statuses that included statistics and statements related to domestic violence.

“It’s very important, not just for romantic relationships–to know what relationships–are healthy,” Patel says.

Patel, who was assaulted last year and wrote a column in the Daily Northwestern about her attack as well as relationship violence in general, was instrumental in planning and facilitating a large amount of the programming for DVAM. Among the events Alpha Chi hosted and was involved in was Apnaghar’s Stride Against Violence 5k, a “Love Is…” campaign where students were photographed holding up dry erase boards with their definitions of love written on them, and an event with the YWCA where a speaker came to discuss and debunk the many abounding myths surrounding domestic violence.

CARE, which is geared towards sexual/relationship education and violence prevention, also provided a large amount of programming and became involved with DVAM themed activities hosted by other groups. Laura Stuart, coordinator for sexual health education and violence prevention says that this involvement is part of CARE’s greater effort to re coordinate its campaign against domestic violence.

“[We] tried to promote more Domestic Violence Awareness Month activities than we have in the past–in the past we haven’t had as much of a coordinated campaign as I would have liked,” She says.

Stuart says that in previous years, a large amount of CARE’s attention has been devoted more towards sexual assault and rape prevention as opposed to education about relationship violence. Both Stuart and CARE as a group have made it a goal to make more of an effort to provide information about relationship violence. This change, according to Stuart, is both prudent and timely. It comes at the same time as Northwestern’s revision of its sexual misconduct policy. The policy, which currently does state that relationship violence and stalking are in violation of the student code of conduct, will now include more precise language to define various types of relationship violence and impropriety, according to Stuart.

"People do believe that sexual assault and rape happen here," Stuart says, "Not really believing that [domestic violence] could be something that happens on campus to someone they know."

Both CARE and the members of Alpha Chi Omega, are already making plans to keep the conversation going, even though the month of October has come and gone. Both groups plan to recognize Stalking Awareness month, which happens in January and Alpha Chi Omega  will be recognizing a "Healthy Relationships Week," during the month of February which will include a continuation of its "Love is..." campaign. And as these and many other groups continue to spread awareness, on campus and elsewhere, hopefully, more eyes will open, and it will become clearer what love is, and what it is not.