Photo by Emily Neal / Staff Writer
Students were able to see through the eyes of victims Monday night for In Her Shoes, a simulation event hosted by the June Anderson Center for Women and the Rutherford County Domestic Violence shelter in honor of domestic violence awareness month.
During the simulation event, students separated into groups and took on new identities as survivors of domestic violence. The simulation followed the lives of Ines, Janet, J’Mai, Linh, Rayna, Sarah and Tiffany, their abusers, their struggles with domestic violence and their attempts to leave their abusive relationships.
“MTSU decided they wanted to bring this event to campus to make students aware of domestic violence,” said Barbara Scales, Director of the June Anderson Center for Women. “I think the more we can get students to be aware, they can understand why victims stay and to be bystanders and say, ‘You need to get out of this relationship or you’re going to die,’” she said.
The event featured 12 different stations spread throughout the Student Union and College of Education. Each station had a different story card that walked students through a different scenario. Students made decisions as if they were in the victims’ shoes, and each decision changed the outcome of the story.
“This is designed to be just a glimpse of what a victim goes through when they decide to leave,” said Myra Beasley, a legal advocate with the shelter. “Victims will leave and come back seven times before they get out or die,” she said.
Some victims escaped, some went back and some died as a result of the violence. According to Kim Reynolds, Vice President of Sexual Assault Crisis Response at the shelter, domestic violence related deaths are the number one cause of death for women in the United States.
Throughout the different stations and story cards, students experienced the reasons victims choose to stay in abusive relationships. Money was a large factor, as well as support from services. Some students found that shelters would not take in victims that were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, leaving the victims with nowhere to turn. Students also saw that it was hard for some women to leave because their abusers had total control of the money, and they needed some way to survive.
“My organization, Alpha Gamma Rho, likes to go to events that broaden our horizons and gets us out of our own little worlds,” said Kalab Fulton, a senior animal science major. “I thought this event was really neat. I am more aware of the fact that you can say you want to go get help but actually getting help is a different story,” he said.
The simulation told students what the victims were thinking at all times, and it also showed what the abusers were thinking. In almost every scenario, the abusers thought what they were doing was totally normal, justifying everything they did.
“I liked that it not only showed the victim’s side, but it also illuminated the abuser’s side and showed us what goes through the mind of an abuser,” Fulton said.
Statistics provided by the shelter showed that one in three women will be victims of domestic violence.
“If it’s not you, it’s someone you know,” said Reynolds.
“We can’t stop it by ourselves. If women could’ve stopped it, it would have been stopped a long time ago,” Reynolds said. “We need men to stand up and say this is not just a women’s problem, this is a community problem,” she added.