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What is Domestic Violence Awareness Month?

This interview has been edited for clarity.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse or interpersonal violence, is defined by the United Nations as “a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound someone.” Though many people may believe domestic violence only happens to women, domestic violence is a pervasive problem that affects anyone of any age, gender, nationality, race, religion, and sexuality. Domestic violence also often goes hand in hand with sexual harassment, which refers to “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment” as defined by RAINN and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 

The recognition of such violence and harassment, often based on gender, has been a long-fought battle that started in the early 1960’s with the revolution of the Women’s Liberation Movement, or what has now become known as Second Wave Feminism. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed and prohibited discrimination based on gender, which prohibited sexual harassment and paved the way for the EEOC to be created to enforce the law in the United States. In 1970, the first battered women’s shelter was opened by Erin Pizzey, and with it, led to states beginning to pass laws barring domestic abuse & violence (the first of which was in Pennsylvania). The first battered women’s shelter in NY was founded in NYC in 1971, created by Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes of Ms. Magazine fame. The Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994 and solidifed womens’ right not to be physically, verbally, or sexually abused by their partners. 

As college students, we often have unique experiences and perspectives into domestic violence and sexual harassment. As Lisa Evaneski, Title IX Coordinator for SUNY Oswego, will tell you, “People are still shocked it happens on campus.” I asked Lisa to answer some questions about herself, her role, resources for those suffering through these issues, and what raising awareness about domestic violence and sexual harassment meant to her. 

Can you briefly state what Title IX is and what sorts of protections it gives?

“Title IX is an educational law dating back to 1972. It became relevant again in 2011 when the Obama/Biden administration had the Department of Education send a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter to colleges and universities. Since then, several laws have been updated including the Clery Act, Violence Against Women Act and Title IX. We expect there will be additional changes to Title IX again with the current presidential administration. We also follow Article 129B which is a New York State education law. Title IX, Clery Act, and the Violence Against Women Act have some overlapping protections, and cover a lot of preventative requirements for colleges and universities as well as response requirements if something is reported. You can check out some of that information here:

Bill of Rights: https://ww1.oswego.edu/title-ix/students-bill-rights  

Our full policies are here: https://ww1.oswego.edu/title-ix/policies

How did you come to be our Title IX Coordinator?

“I was initially on the Title IX Committee as the person in charge of adjudicating cases. Then I took on the training role for the entire campus (students and employees). Finally, I was named part-time Title IX Coordinator in 2013 and full time in 2015 after successfully implementing the new policy changes and began our prevention program.”

What is ItsOnOz? Why do you think it’s an important program to have at this college?

It’s On Oz is our prevention campaign, as well as the name of our social media accounts. All of the training, workshops, prevention and awareness programs and our internships fall under It’s On Oz. For us, it has been a really positive way to focus attention on things people can do everyday to foster prevention and support each other.”

Why is it so important to raise awareness about domestic violence? What does this month mean to you? 

“It’s important to me because we had no idea what we might see at the college level. Our students and employees are dealing with dating and domestic violence in their lives while trying to maintain jobs, school, etc. My office helps with ongoing issues that may arise for students and employees, including safety planning, referrals to resources and support while undergoing conduct or criminal charges, breakups/divorces, etc.”

What do you think is unique about the domestic violence/sexual harassment that college students face that differs from the general population?

“At the college level, the focus with dating and domestic violence is different. Students are impacted in different ways: social circles are disrupted, prior friendships are impacted, and students may be afraid to tell family and friends what happened. All of these circumstances can make victims/survivors feel even more isolated. With sexual harassment, I think people are more surprised that at this day and age that people are still harassing others.”

What are some common misconceptions you hear from students (or even faculty) about domestic violence and sexual harassment?

“There are definitely misconceptions about men out there. 1 in 3 women, 1 in 4 men, and 1 in 2 transgender or gender nonconforming people will face domestic or interpersonal violence in their lifetime. We are thankful that the men on our campus have felt safe and supported to report to me, although there are likely those that still do not report.”

What are some things students should know they can report to you that might not think they can or are issues?

“Anything that falls under sexual and interpersonal violence can be reported. For our campus that includes sex discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression. As well, sexual harassment which includes unwanted behavior, repeated requests for dates, other types of verbal and physical unwanted behavior of a sexual nature. Domestic or interpersonal violence, sexual assault, and stalking all falls under Title IX. They can also report uncomfortable behavior that might not rise to the level of sexual or interpersonal violence, but might be boundary issues, or unhealthy relationships, or just something they need advice about.”

What sorts of resources, both on campus and in Oswego, are available to students who are facing domestic violence/sexual harassment or know someone who is?

“So many!:

  • My office to start — people can email me [email protected] which gets a faster response than calling or stopping by
  • SAF— Services to Aid Families has a 24 hour hotline at 315-342-1600 and can help with sexual assault and dating violence advocacy
  • University Police 315-312-5555 can help with on campus cases
  • Oswego Police (911) if an incident happens off campus
  • Health Services and Counseling Services on campus can help confidentially”

Do you have anything else to add about yourself, your position, ItsOnOz/Title IX, or domestic violence and sexual harassment?

“I am really thankful that our community has really come together to help prevent sexual and interpersonal violence and help their friends to find us if they have been harmed. Also, if people meet with me, they get to choose what happens in the process. We will not take the situation out of their hands except for rare exceptions — so rare it hasn’t happened in 9+ years.”

Please see the below calendar of events that are happening on the Oswego campus this month to raise awareness:

ItsOnOz domestic violence awareness month schedule
Design by Lisa Evaneski
Shannon Sutorius is an award winning 23-year-old English major, over 40-time-published author, editor, and former Teaching Assistant currently attending SUNY Oswego who graduates in December of 2021. Shannon is one of the current Campus Correspondents for Her Campus Oswego, previously Senior Editor, and currently writes the Advice Column, "Dear Athena." Shannon has worked with and been published in Great Lake Review, Medium, and Subnivean. Shannon's awards include the Edward Austin Sheldon Award, Pride Alliance's Defender of LGBT+ Rights in Journalism Award, and the Dr. Richard Wheeler Memorial Scholarship. As well, Shannon is an active member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. She currently lives in Oswego and has a dog named Nugget.
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