Photo by Emily Neal / Contributing Writer
Members from the Rutherford County Domestic Violence Shelter and the Murfreesboro Police Department gathered with MTSU students on Tuesday night in the Cason-Kennedy Nursing Building to discuss domestic violence and how students can help bring awareness to this issue.
The shelter paired up with Alpha Chi Omega to host this event on campus during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“It’s important to have events like this so that people can be educated about domestic violence,” said Olivia Brooks, Alpha Chi Omega’s Vice President of Philanthropy and a senior early childhood education major. “I think sometimes there’s confusion about what it really is, or people don’t know what they can do to help stop a situation when they hear or see it.” There is so much to look into when we focus on domestic violence. Like a lot of things, this isn’t the most pleasant thing in life to think about, but it does affect a lot of people. From companies that provide service of process for victims to file their paperwork to the offender being punished for their crimes, this is a long process. We have to work together to stop these situations from happening.
According to the Rutherford County Domestic Violence Shelter’s website, domestic violence is defined as “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another.” Christie Fox, a member of the Awareness Committee with the shelter and a domestic violence survivor, told MTSU students her story, bringing attention to behaviors to be wary of in an intimate relationship.
“When I was 16-years-old I met my abuser,” Fox said. “He made me feel so special. Two weeks after we were dating, he told me he loved me. That’s one of the first signs: Quick involvement.”
She said her abuser bought her a promise ring to “prove his love for her,” and when she proved her love for him, the situation escalated.
“He was choking me,” she said. “I had to wear turtlenecks in the summer. I didn’t have any friends, just him.”
Isolation is another warning behavior to be cautious of, Fox explained. Other behaviors to look out for are jealousy, abuse of animals, verbal abuse, the belief that others should obey, sudden changes in mood and violent tendencies toward others.
Detective Kelvin Jones from the Murfreesboro Police Department Special Victims’ Unit said, “43 to 46 percent of all of our service calls are domestic violence related. There are all kinds of things that stem from domestic violence. This is a huge problem.”
The statistics provided by the shelter show that one in three women and one in five men will become victims of domestic violence, and one in 12 college men admit to doing something that meets the legal definition of sexual assault.
“A grown man does not put his hands on a woman, Jones said. “It’s a learned behavior.”
According to Jones, domestic violence is often learned from childhood. When children grow up in homes with a lot of fighting, that’s what they come to know as normal.
“I can’t tell you how many abusers think this is how you deal with things,” said Kim Reynolds, Vice President of Sexual Assault Crisis Response at the shelter.
Some young boys are taught that you never lay hands on a woman no matter what, which can potentially lead to violence against men, and others are taught to be tough.
“Studies show it takes a whole year to unlearn something,” Jones said.
The shelter offers many services including housing, legal advocacy, counseling and a sexual assault crisis response.
“24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, if someone is raped, they get an advocate,” Reynolds said.
Advocates help victims through all legal and court processes, go with them to the hospital for treatment and provide overall support to victims.
“In Rutherford County, we attended 81 hospital calls in one year,” Reynolds said. “A lot of them come from [MTSU]. It calms down in the summer. Last year, when school started, we had three rapes the first day.”
According to Reynolds, Tennessee ranks in the top three states for domestic violence-related deaths. Only 2 percent of these cases ever go to court, while 15 out of 16 rapists will never go to jail.
“If you don’t want to be a victim, or if you don’t want to be an offender, you have got to be more aware,” Reynolds said.
Jones spoke to the eight men in the room saying, “Domestic violence can only end with you and me.”
Students were urged to report violent behaviors and call attention to situations of violence in public. They were told to do whatever is necessary to give a small break to the violence and hopefully diffuse the situation long enough for law enforcement to be contacted.
Marty Fernandes, a senior visual communication major, said, “Events like these are so important because we can all be a proponent for change in our community. Educating others on the effects of domestic violence can help us eliminate it at its source.”
For more information on domestic violence awareness and how to get involved, visit the Rutherford County Domestic Violence shelter’s website.