Raising Awareness

Image from Flickr.com

By Emily Mathis

The first time he hit me I was so scared and shocked that I stayed. After that it was a continuous cycle of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse followed by guilt, blame, and manipulation to get me to stay. I left him after the third time. I am one of the lucky ones. I know that. Every day victims of domestic violence are seriously injured or even killed. According to some statistics, domestic violence is the number one cause of injury in women between the ages of 15-44. That’s more than car accidents, muggings and rape combined. Not to mention that according to the Domestic Violence Resource Center more than three women and one man are killed every day by domestic violence.

I was only 17 when it happened to me. I’m sure there were signs but at 17 how could I be expected to recognize them? Well maybe that’s where we start-with education. Teaching kids, teens, and young adults what is a healthy relationship and what an abusive relationship looks like is important. We need to be teaching everyone what to do if you find yourself in an abusive situation. I turned to my friends at the time. It was the blind leading the blind. But what if my friends had heard about what you do in these situations? Maybe I would have gotten help sooner than I did. There is no one to blame in these situations except for the perpetrator.

With 1 in 4 teenage girls assaulted by their boyfriends, it is time that we broaden our focus to include younger generations. If you stop it early it will be less likely to get to a critical point in the future. But along with teaching kids, teenagers and young adults, we need to be raising awareness among people of all walks of life because domestic violence knows no race, ethnicity, or class. This is one of our nation’s serious problems and it needs to be handled as such.

Here are some links if you or someone you know is in trouble or you just want more information:

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Some local information:


Rose Brooks

UMKC Violence Prevention and Response Project

16 Days to Make A Difference

By Devon White

Image from flickr.com

This year marked the 20th anniversary of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign. This international campaign recognized the time between November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women, and December 10, International Human Rights Day, in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights. This campaign also highlights other significant dates including November 29, International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, December 1, World Aids Day, and December 6, which marks the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.

This year’s 16 Days theme was structures of Violence: Defining the Intersections of Militarism and Violence Against Women, which examines the role of militarism as a key component in all types of violence, sexual violence included, “Militarism neither ends nor begins in war zones, nor does it confine itself to the public sphere. The families of militarizes men and women may experience violence in their homes where ‘war crimes’ and armed domestic violence are hidden from public view, and women who serve in the military are just as easily victims of sexual assault by their fellow soldiers” (16 Days). This theme is especially relevant considering recent remarks by a judge, who advocated for “corrective” lesbian rape in the military.

Stories like this and Elizabeth Seeberg’s recent suicide at Notre Dame in the aftermath of a sexual crime necessitates awareness and prevention 365 days a year. We should all make the eradication of domestic violence a priority. Join the Violence Prevention and Response Project and the Women’s Center as we advocate for and remember survivors and victims of gender-based violence and AIDS, while pledging to always be the voice of the voiceless.

The Power of Compassion

By Devon White

Here at the Women’s Center, my fellow staff members and I are annually trained on Safe Space protocols and on the appropriate steps and resources used to handle the Violence Prevention and Response needs for our student body. Everyone from our Executive Director down has been trained on these initiatives and understands the necessity to have this support in place here at UMKC to help make it a learning environment free of violence, harassment and sexual misconduct.

The mission of the Violence Prevention and Response Project at the UMKC is to strengthen the University and community response to gender-based and sexual violence through victim support services, advocacy, training, education, and outreach to the campus and community.  My first Violence Prevention and Response training was enlightening, educational and metaphorically placed me in the shoes of a survivor of abuse. The Victim Services Adjudication Advisor Michelle Kroner and Program Coordinator, Kerra McCorkle, gave us an exercise that reverberates in my mind days later. Near the end of our training session, all of the student assistants were told to pair off and select a Listener and a Speaker role in which to conduct the exercise. I cheerfully looked to my co-worker sitting next to me and said, “Let’s be partners!” and agreed to be the Speaker. None of us had a clue what we were about to do, but we excitedly paired off and moved to the four corners of the room. Then the VPR Program Coordinator told us out of the blue: “Now, Speakers tell your Listener about your first sexual experience!” The room that was buzzing with energy mere seconds ago screeched to a silent halt. We all blinked, peering at the Program Coordinator inquisitively to make sure we heard her right. I heard a few uncomfortable laughs fill the room and we all seemed to instantly draw into ourselves. Someone asked: “Um, can I whisper it?” and another of my peers requested that the conference room doors be closed. Being the only guy doing this exercise, I was already censoring my response down to the bare essentials and leaving out anything uncomfortable or too personal that I didn’t want my avid Listener to know.  Fortunately, Kerra cut off my response when she called out for all of us to stop right as we got started.

Once we regrouped at the table we were asked how that exercise made us feel, and how much information we were willing to share. Some of us remarked that we were reluctant to share such personal information and others expressed their need to rush through the process and get it over with. We quickly learned how a survivor of abuse may feel when seeking help and explaining their traumatic experiences: a purposeful or unintentional lack of details, a desire to rush through the explanation of the experience, not to mention the intense discomfort that accompanied sharing such sensitive information with a stranger. Our experience did not include the stigma that victims of violence and abuse suffer when trying to piece together a narrative of their experience.      

National Domestic Violence Month has drawn to a close, but with one in four women (25%) at risk of experiencing domestic violence in her lifetime, the battle for awareness and prevention is far from over. Prevention and risk reduction are vital in creating a safe campus and community for those affected by sexual violence. It is often difficult for survivors to tell their story so it’s our responsibility to create a safe atmosphere in which to do so.  We must all learn how to compassionately respond to survivors of abuse in their moment of need. If you’re looking for resources or want to learn more about UMKC’S Violence Prevention and Response Project visit their website.

October is Domestic Violence Month, too.

By Emily Mathis

Drive around Kansas City in October and I bet you will see some pink fountains. The city, for the past seven years, has dyed a dozen or so fountains pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. However, I bet not as many people know that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Why is it that if both issues are important to women’s health, one is more visible than the other?

Here at the UMKC Women’s Center and the Violence Prevention and Response Project, we have many events surrounding Domestic Violence Awareness. For instance, we just wrapped up the Clothesline Project, and coming up we have the These Hands Don’t Hurt tables all around campus as well as educational sessions on Violence Prevention and Dating Violence. However, besides our events, I haven’t seen as much around the community promoting awareness about this important issue.

I am definitely not trying to belittle Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  I know how important it is to women’s health. But statistically speaking, so is Domestic Violence Awareness. According to the Domestic Violence Resource Center, “Between 600,000 and 6 million women are victims of domestic violence each year, and between 100,000 and 6 million men.” This is not light issue.

So while we are supporting the pink ribbon campaign, it is also important to make sure that we are spreading the word about domestic violence. It’s happening and we need to recognize it so we can prevent it.

To learn more about Domestic Violence, including how to recognize it go here.

Local Resources in Fight against Domestic and Sexual Violence

Last time, I looked at a few state-wide resources in Missouri and Kansas, but this week, I’d like to talk briefly about three resources that we have right here in the community. For starters, we have a good list of local resources here on the UMKC Women’s Center website, and I’m using this resource to find the organizations I will highlight below.

Hope House is a local organization which helps thousands of domestic violence victims every year by providing two 52-bed shelters, awareness training and community outreach, court advocacy, an emergency hotline, and other useful services. They have been serving the Kansas City Metro for 26 years now. You can friend them on Facebook through the Women’s Center Facebook profile.

Mattie Rhodes Center has been serving the community for 115 years now. Here’s their mission statement: “Mattie Rhodes Center bridges cultures and communities through arts, mental health and social services. We empower individuals and families through culturally competent, bilingual services in a respectful and compassionate environment.” As for services, the center seems to focus more on tackling issues of mental health related to domestic and sexual violence, as well as intervention. They also provide a substance abuse prevention and treatment program, along with other valuable services.

Rose Brooks Center helps thousands of people every year who are affected by domestic violence by offering a full-spectrum approach from prevention to crisis intervention to various forms of treatment. Like Hope House, they also offer court advocacy and child programming and emergency shelter.

These are just a few of the organizations that you’ll find at the Women’s Center resource page for Domestic and Sexual Violence. Each of them plays an important part in the effort to stamp out domestic and sexual violence in our community. I encourage our readers to check out these, and other organizations. It’s a real eye-opener. If each of these organizations are helping thousands (or, more like tens of thousands) within our community, it is easy to see what a difficult challenge we face.

State-level Organizations Combating Domestic Violence

In my last post, aside from giving a very brief overview of the history of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I highlighted some organizations at the national level that work to raise awareness about, and to directly combat, domestic violence. Today I will bring the focus a little closer to home by presenting a couple state-level organizations which just happen to be closely connected to the Domestic Violence Awareness Project.

Since the UMKC Women’s Center is located in Missouri (just barely), it’s logical to begin with the Missouri Coalition against Domestic & Sexual Violence (or MOCADSV). On their website, MOCADSV lists their main objectives as Education, Assistance, Alliance, and Research. Perhaps they best sum up their purpose this way: “The Coalition also serves as a voice for programs at the state and national levels to advocate for women and their children, and to improve funding sources, public policy, systems and responses to domestic and sexual violence”. There is also a very broad membership base consisting of both organizations and individuals. This is a great opportunity for those seeking to get involved at the state and/or local level. They also provide a list of service providers from across the state.

Seeing as UMKC is only a few blocks from Jayhawk country, it is only fitting to talk about the Kansas Coalition against Sexual and Domestic Violence (or KCSDV). KCSDV, like its counterpart in Missouri, is a broad coalition of organizations and individuals, which takes a very comprehensive approach to fighting domestic and sexual violence. You will also find a list of service providers and resources at the KCSDV website. Just like MOCADSV, the Kansas coalition also provides opportunities for organizations and individuals to get directly involved.

Next time, I will highlight a few area resources for fighting domestic violence and raising awareness. Until then, be well!

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

In honor of DVAM, the Women’s Center has organized several events to increase domestic violence awareness:

These Hands Don’t Hurt and the White Ribbon Campaign Tables
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so visit our awareness tables to participate in two events: “These Hands Don’t Hurt” allows you to stamp your handprints on a banner, creating a visual statement against violence against women, while the White Ribbon Campaign symbolizes a commitment to ending violence against women. Come sign a pledge never to commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women. Sponsored by the Violence Prevention and Response Project.
Wednesday, October 14, Health Sciences Building, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Friday, October 30; Royall Hall, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Click here for more details

Dating Violence 101
Thursday, October 29, UMKC University Center, Alumni Room, 6:30 – 8 p.m.
Join us for this powerful and insightful presentation discussing the effects of dating violence on both women and men in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We will cover myths and facts about dating violence and also provide information about where to receive assistance. Sponsored by the Violence Prevention and Response Project and Rose Brooks Center.
Click here for more details

The History of Domestic Violence Awareness Month

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) I’ve decided to dedicate all of my blogs to the subject of organizations that deal directly with domestic violence awareness and prevention. My goal is to highlight a few such organizations per week, and give a brief overview of their contributions. The main reason why I feel it is important to dedicate several of my upcoming entries to this one topic is that there are just so many resources available that I hardly even know where to start! So, let’s begin with a little history behind DVAM.

According to The Domestic Violence Awareness Project, DVAM “evolved from the ‘Day of Unity’ in October 1981 conceived by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence”, the intent of which was to bring advocates for awareness and prevention together from across the nation. In October 1987, the first Domestic violence Awareness Month was observed. At the project’s website, you can also learn more about what other innovations were taking place concurrently to directly combat domestic violence, as well as, receive lots of great information about the resources the project has to offer.

Another good resource is the US Department of Justice, which has some very detailed information about the passing of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA), which is celebrating its 15th year! The website includes a video featuring remarks made by Attorney General Eric Holder regarding this very important anniversary. President Barak Obama also recognized the significance the VAWA anniversary in a recent address, during which he commented on some of the gains that have been made as a direct result of this legislation in the struggle against domestic violence.

Each of these resources (aside from that of the White House) offers links to additional information and resources, which I encourage everyone to check out.

Well, until next week, be well!