To raise awareness around campus the Pinnacle Luncheon this past Monday featured Selina Armstrong and Ayonna Johnson from the Women’s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence in Atlanta, Georgia. The great part about this talk was that we all think we know what domestic violence is, and what it should look like. A husband who looks aggressive, menacing, and has anger management issues beats a wife who is timid, small, shy, and weak. However, this stereotype is more often than not, a false assumption. The perpetrator is often very in tune with his emotions, so much so that often the victim is seen as the attacker because they are having a more normal, angry response to the abuse. The WRC stresses the importance of believing and supporting the victim. Whether that means supporting them in getting a protective order, getting a safe distance away from their abuser, or pursuing criminal charges. They realize that there is not just one way to approach domestic violence, and it is important to respect the decision the victim makes. They even have a safe house that children can meet with the abusive parent so that family relations can remain strong throughout the process.
So, what does this have to do with us as college students? I sat down with Emily Ferguson (pictured speaking above at the Pinnacle Luncheon), a junior and resident of the Women’s Center this year who interned at the WRC this past summer, to hear about what the Wick would like us to take away from this month. The most important thing I learned is that domestic violence is not just an issue for husbands, wives, and families. Intimate partner violence can affect us even here at Sewanee. Relationships in college are often very intense, and can even be isolating. When a couple hits a rough patch, especially when excessive alcohol is involved, things can escalate to a violent level. Alternatively, relationships can be defined as “friends with benefits” or “hooking up” or “together but not putting a label on it.” While these are not relationships in the traditional sense, they are relationships in the modern sense and need to be accounted for. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse can happen in any form of an intimate relationship, and therefore we need to be aware of it and how to recognize its presence in our relationships. Emily stressed that just being aware of these facts is a huge step for college students and that at Sewanee we should focus on creating healthy relationships without extremes.
To hear more about domestic violence awareness month stop by the Wick’s table in McClurg all week, and write a note to the wonderful people in your life letting them know how much they mean to you. Learn more about this event here. And most importantly, keep celebrating this wonderful community that we live in and help us strive to keep it that way.
Abuse of any kind, in any relationship, is wrong and if you or a friend feels that they are in a dangerous relationship, there is help. The Wellness Center, Women’s Center, and even your proctors and assistant proctors are all equipped to direct you to the support you need.