Community discusses domestic abuse during two Diversity Dialogues

(Photo by Melina Bourdeau)

Three students hosted two Diversity Dialogues over the past two weeks to discuss domestic violence and its impact on the community.

The diversity dialogues were titled, “How far will you let it go: drawing the line on intimate partner violence.” They were held by self-proclaimed “students who care” – junior sociology major Fernando Rodriguez, junior psychology major Victoria Dansereau and senior English major Kimberly Awiszio.

In the first dialogue, held in the Multicultural Center on Thursday Nov. 13, Awiszio, asked true or false questions to give the audience an idea of how far reaching domestic abuse is.

Some of the statistics included that 10 million people a year are victims of domestic abuse, and one in every four men in the U.S. are subjected to violence by their partners. There are approximately six deaths per day as a result of domestic abuse.

The students who led the discussion reminded everyone not to talk about anyone in particular in their discussion and to be respectful.

The group included approximately ten students and as many administrators and faculty members. The audience considered the way media portrays gender roles and violence.

Rodriguez said people should “listen to these things critically.” He used the example of music that might portray violence – specifically violence against women. He said he used to listen to it, but now he thinks it sounds stupid. “You have to challenge yourself before you can challenge everyone else,” he said.

Dean of Students Melinda Stoops said the culture in which domestic violence is prevalent is “exposed daily” through the language people use, such as words which have sexual connotations that put women down.

One of the students said it’s really important for people to spread positivity and kindness even in the face of difficulties or others’ harmful actions.

She added that she’s been “personally affected” by the recent discussions concerning domestic violence, feeling unsafe on campus, when she feels as if she should be able to consider FSU home. She added that if people in the community worked on making campus a safe space, it would be a step closer to making the bigger community a safe space as well.

Another student asked why there wasn’t a bigger discussion on campus, such as a mandatory campus-wide meeting where students could talk about these issues.

Rodriguez spoke about how Awiszio, Dansereau and himself put aside their other responsibilities that week to organize these discussions, but he doesn’t believe the administration took the matter seriously enough.

Rodriguez said he thought the administration was more concerned about the “reputation of the school over the safety of the students.”

He asked whether the administration was being “reactive or proactive,” adding, “How can we amplify our voices?”

In the second diversity dialogue, sociology professor Xavier Guadalupe-Diaz, who specializes in researching intimate partner violence and also teaches a course on intimate partner violence (IPV) accompanied the students leading the discussion.

Fourteen students and five faculty and staff members were at the event.

Rodriguez began the discussion by stating it is “critical” to have these types of conversations about such sensitive topics. He and the other students reminded everyone of the suggested guidelines: no naming, keeping it a safe space, respecting other people’s ideas and experiences and being honest.

He said, “We are just here to raise awareness, not point fingers or focus on any specific event or person.”

The students hosting the event asked the audience how they would define IPV/domestic abuse. One student said, “When you demoralize a person, or take value away from them … or if you express superior power.”

Another student added, “If you instill fear in someone else and make them wonder what possibly could happen next.”

Rodriguez commended the students for their answers and then recited the United States Department of Justice definition, which is, “A pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.”

He said, “There are different types of abuse – financial, emotional, psychological, sexual and physical abuse.” Rodriguez reached out to the audience to define these types of abuse. One student said, “Emotional abuse is when you verbally abuse someone by bringing them down and degrading them.”

Awiszio informed the audience of the signs of domestic abuse within the parameters of their own personal relationships as well as their friends’ relationships. According to Awiszio, domestic abuse is much more common than people think.

Awiszio added that it is still a form of abuse if one’s partner is threatening to hurt him or herself in response to any of one’s actions.

According to Guadalupe-Diaz, it is hard to find accurate statistics regarding the number of LGBT couples experiencing domestic violence due to their community being uncomfortable about being surveyed.

Director of the Multicultural Center, Kathy Martinez raised the topic of the Instagram image of the Halloween costumes depicting domestic violence and said, “Administratively, other than this event and the other event that you all did, there has been no formal forum for discussing what this image has done to our campus. So as part of the administration, I think we really need to find a way to have more conversations when these things come to our campus.”

A student said, “Yeah just going off of what Kathy said, I completely agree. I don’t think the post should have been swept under the rug. I think something should be done. There needs to be more sense of urgency. They [administration] need to understand that this is affecting students.”

Rodriguez said, “Victims don’t feel comfortable talking to certain people. Sometimes, you talk to somebody and there is no response. Say you opened up and talked to somebody and nothing was done, except maybe an email. Is that going to make you want to speak up next time something happens?”

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