Experiencing stories of domestic violence

Recently, the BC Center for Career Connections and Multi Cultural Services posted signs around campus to spread awareness of domestic violence. Each sign had a different indicator of an abusive relationship and listed resources available to students who might be experiencing that specific scenario.

The event invited students, staff and faculty to “‘Walk’ a Mile In Her Shoes” by following a provided map. Held on March 2, this was the first in a series of campus events for Women’s History Month.

Participants could pick up maps at MCS, PALS and the Center for Career Connections, or simply start at the library and follow the directions on the sign. Each poster also could stand alone as an educational tool.

“I wanted to create something where anybody walking by, even if they don’t do the whole walk, will have to confront one aspect of an abusive relationship,” said Christina Sciabarra, associate director of the Center for Career Connections at BC. “People who really wanted to do an experience could do a larger one.”

The idea for the event came from an existing program created by the Washington Coalition Against Domestic Violence called “In Her Shoes” that takes participants through the experiences of one specific survivor. BC featured this program last quarter.

In 2014 alone, 49,360 domestic violence offenses were reported in Washington State, according to The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, WASPC, Annual Report. 63 of these offenses were murder. While abuse can happen to a person of any gender, the above cases represent an overall trend of violence towards women in domestic situations; 70 percent of domestic violence victims reported last year were female.

These instances only represent physical abuse, but abuse in general encompasses much more. According to the BC page on domestic violence, it can include sexual, emotional, economic and psychological violence as well. “Initially, identifying the signs of an abusive relationship can be difficult,” the description continued. “Especially if the abuser uses subtle tactics to gain power and control.”

Sciabarra believes that many students might not know that they are experiencing abuse. They know that they are uncomfortable with what is happening or that someone is controlling them, but don’t realize that this isn’t normal or appropriate in a relationship, according to Sciabarra.

The abuse itself may not even be overtly intentional. “A lot of students may not realize that their behavior is inappropriate or making someone uncomfortable,” Sciabarra explained.

If a student realizes that they are experiencing abuse, Sciabarra suggested counseling as a first step. BC students get six free sessions at the counseling center on campus per quarter. “Before you try to confront your abuser, the system and your environment,” Sciabarra explained, “get someone who can help.”

The last poster in the “walk” was about the way an abuser can control a survivor’s life and take away their autonomy. It is located in the Center for Career Connections intentionally. A big step in gaining freedom and autonomy for a survivor can be becoming independent economically, and the Center for Career Connections is a place to start.

Other resources on campus include the Multicultural Services Center and Title IX coordinator Rachel Welman. “Most people who know about Title IX think it applies only to sports,” according to the Title IX website, but it actually covers equal access to education for women in general. If anything related to harassment, sexual assault or violence is impeding a student’s ability to study, it is the Title IX coordinator for every school’s job to provide resources to help.

Even students that do not have any personal connection with domestic violence can help reach out to those that experience abuse.

Sciabarra hopes to bring local domestic violence resources such as Lifewise, New Beginnings and East Side Domestic Violence onto campus in future events. “I’m seeing this as a good start,” she said, “We’re definitely looking for feedback, and I would love to expand and improve this for next year.”