Women’s Center hosts domestic violence program

GVL/Luke Holmes

GVL/Luke Holmes

Ashlyn Korienek

Their bodies faced the crowd at the front of the room, faces covered and then revealed to display the silhouettes of victims taken by the same crime: domestic violence.

Each of these victims have a story beckoning to be heard. The life-sized silhouettes were more than cut-outs with orange paint – they represent the memory of those who died from dating and domestic violence, and survivors who remain underserved in the community.

To honor those who died from domestic violence in the state of Michigan, the Women’s Center partnered with the Center for Women in Transition and Safe Haven on Oct. 27 for the Silent Witness program event.

The program, started in 1990, is a national effort to eliminate domestic violence homicides by 2020. The Women’s center focused on intersectionality relating to what can be done supporting and recognizing underserved survivors, specifically those marginalized within the community.

During October, the silhouettes were displayed at Grand Valley State University for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Students gathered at noon Oct. 27 in the Kirkhof Center where Holly Seymour, from the Center for Women in Transition, led the discussion after nine local victims’ stories were shared.

“I can’t get through a Silent Witness event without tears,” Seymour said. “We advocate on the behalf of survivors every day, but many do not make it. Domestic violence can be challenging for people who face barriers.

“There’s a high rate of domestic violence, particularly among the most vulnerable members of the population,” she

Aubrey Dull, the coordinator of the event and Violence Against Women Grant graduate assistant, said the goal was to educate individuals about identifying different types of domestic violence, resources available and ways to get involved in the movement.

“These stories shared were very difficult to hear,” Dull said. “Each represent hundreds of other stories that were not told. Dating and domestic violence is not a topic many people tend to think about unless they or someone they know has experienced it personally.”

After an increase in reported sexual offenses, four reported in 2013 and 13 reported in 2014, the university began taking action to increase education on dating and domestic violence. The Grand Valley State University Police department records these numbers for public view under the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report.

The Clery compliance officer at GVSU, GVPD Capt. Brandon DeHaan, said that for 2015 the Clery report included a change in reporting requirements for sexual offenses. The changes include: fondling, rape and incest. Also, the report accounts for dating violence, domestic violence and stalking.

“Sexual violence is the most underreported of all incidents,” DeHaan said. “We are trying to make sure everything is as clear as possible. We want survivors to feel safe reporting these incidents to the police or to the campus Victim Adviser.

“The intent is to help survivors the best we can and encourage people to report these incidents.”

DeHaan said the collaboration of Ashley Schulte, Theresa Rowland and himself provides an active system for survivors to receive the resources needed. All parties work together when an incident is reported.

“The Women’s Center hosts the Silent Witness program every year to raise awareness on dating and domestic violence,” Dull said. “Without awareness of this reality, it is easy to believe that it is not an issue within our own community, which is detrimental to those experiencing this type of violence.”

For more information on victim rights visit, www.gvsu.edu/vro.