Author: Taylor-Anne Esparza
Occidental College honored Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence Awareness Month with a Peace over Violence speaker informing students of her experiences with domestic issues. To further awareness, Project SAFE will be sponsoring the Red Flag Campaign next week by placing red flags around campus with warning signs and facts about how to have a healthy relationship.
Project SAFE also hosted an Ally Training session in the Center for Gender Equity (CGE) that involved myth-busting and informing students about the prevalence of sexual assault and domestic violence on college campuses. Project SAFE tried to overturn preconceptions like: people who stay in domestic violent relationships enjoy it, stress causes the abuser to act violently and domestic violence only happens when the abuser loses control.
Janet (last name withheld for anonymity), spokeswoman for Peace over Violence, shared her experience as a domestic violence survivor to provide awareness for Occidental students. Janet retold her personal story and educated students about the red flags of an abusive relationship.
A friend of Janet’s convinced her to go speed-dating where she connected with one of the other speed-daters. Their connection was instantaneous, and Janet felt as though she had known him forever. Janet discussed her partner’s overly excessive show of affection early on in the relationship as a red flag that raised suspicion.
“He was professing how much he loved me and how he wanted to get married,” Janet said. ”I thought he was great, but my friends told me I was crazy.”
She recognized peculiarities with this new man in her life, but she simply overlooked and accepted his oddities and actions. Constantly needing to justify a partner’s actions should also cause suspicion in a relationship.
“He was always doing nice things for me to create indebtedness,” Janet said.
Janet further explained extreme and sporadic kindness as a sign of an abusive relationship. She said that perpetrators create the feeling of superiority over their partner to try and make them consistently feel as though they owe them. People in abusive relationships may come to believe they must stay in the relationship, as the perpetrator is extremely kind on occasion. This Jekyll and Hyde syndrome can occur when a perpetrator appears exceedingly affectionate, yet at times exceedingly violent and angry.
Janet spoke of her partner creating isolation from her friends because only his fulfillment mattered in the relationship, another warning sign of an unhealthy relationship. Then, Janet assumed the blame because he never took responsibility—another red flag. He did not like her friends, but it was her fault because she did not choose better friends.
In her talk, Janet confirmed that domestic violence occurs not when perpetrators loses control but when they have total control over their partner. Janet always tried to maintain a perfect home so her partner would be stress-free, yet regardless he would find reason to cause a fight. He was consistently creating situations to mentally and verbally abuse Janet. She wanted to inform students that there are visible detectors of a domestically violent relationship and everyone should know how to recognize them.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month began in 1981 with a Day of Unity sponsored by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Its goal was to unite assaulted women to fight against the violence. The day transformed into a week of awareness and soon gained popularity, and in 1987, it became an entire month of awareness.
Project SAFE Program Assistant Audrey Logan (senior) also discussed recognizing an unhealthy relationship and how to help stop it.
“Most people think that relationship violence just looks like the physical fight between a male and female, but it can take place between any couple,” Logan said. “Males are the dominant group who are batterers, but that is not always the case.”
Logan advocates for awareness and knowledge as the best way for prevention. Misconceptions are also important to be aware of so the warning signs are not neglected. One misconception is that domestic violence only happens to long-term couples or during a random hook-up with a stranger.
“75-80% of sexual assaults are by someone the victim knew. Any sort of relationship, whether casual or formal, is susceptible to these types of situations,” Logan said.
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