Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Domestic Violence Awareness Campaign Aims to ‘Spread Love’

As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence launched a Spread Love D.C. Campaign across the city. The campaign partnered with the university by tabling in Red Square in an attempt to promote student discussion about their definition of love, in an event organized by the Georgetown University Student Association.

Through the campaign, DCCADV provided service to domestic violence survivors through 12 programs in the city and conducted public policy training, technical assistance and community education. According to DCCADV Advocacy and Communication Specialist Andrea Gleaves, the goals of this campaign are the prevention of violence and the promotion of healthy relationships.

“October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, our campaign is focused on ‘Spread Love D.C.’ Our goal is to talk about prevention, about building healthy relationships in thriving communities so violence never has to happen,” Gleaves said.

In addition to the social media campaign on outlets like Instagram and Twitter, Gleaves stressed the importance of reaching out to college students to help the large community of college-aged sexual assault survivors.

“We actually have a partnership with all the universities here in D.C,” Gleaves said. “One in eight individuals in the District are college students. For sexual assault survivors, more than 40 percent who are seeking sexual assault services are between the ages of 18 and 25, which means that if we want to be talking about ending sexual violence and dating violence, we need to be targeting 18 to 25-years-olds. So universities are perfect places for us to go.”

According to GUSA Secretary of Student Safety and Health Nora West (SFS ’15), who organized the event, 21 percent of college students report experiencing dating violence by a current partner, and 22 percent of college women report having previously experienced dating violence. West pointed to the lack of recognition of domestic abuse as one of the primary problems surrounding the issue.

“Behaviors that might raise a red flag as something that can potentially be abusive won’t be thought of that way. So that doesn’t mean that dating violence isn’t happening. It just means that we are not recognizing it when it does,” West said.

GUSA President Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15) expressed his support for the Domestic Violence Awareness Month as filling a gap in sexual assault advocacy on campus.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work on sexual assault issues and tackling that on both the resource side and the jurisdiction side,” Tezel said. “But what we realized was that at Georgetown, we hadn’t done enough to recognize issues of domestic violence. As a good starting point, we can use this month as a way to communicate with our fellow students that domestic violence is a very serious concern and to educate about what a healthy relationship is.”

Programming for Domestic Violence Awareness Month on campus included a flag day on Oct. 15 to mark the red flags in relationships and a tabling event in Red Square on Oct. 16. GUSA will also co-host an interactive dialogue with the organization Breaking the Cycle on Oct. 27.

The tabling program in Red Square asked students to respond with their definition of love, which was papered on the walls of the square. West explained that the goal of tabling was to raise a momentary awareness in students who had never thought about dating violence before.

“We did think about it very purposefully when we planned it, understanding that before we hold the training and educate people about what it is and how it takes place on Georgetown’s campus, we first have to tell them that it is an issue on Georgetown’s campus,” West said.

Jingyu Zou (MSB ’18), a participant in Thursday’s tabling, was initially confused by the tabling, which seemed to focus more on love than on domestic abuse awareness.

“I was definitely not thinking about domestic violence because it’s a wall full of ‘love.’ I thought it was just the promotion of the act of ‘love’ itself,” Zou said. “But after I learned it was about domestic violence, I thought ‘OK, that’s cool. You need love in your family, not violence.’”

Gleaves also noted the importance of connecting survivors of domestic violence to resources to assist them. She said 40 percent of college students are unaware of to whom they should refer their abused friends.

“We want to engage students in a conversation around what are healthy behaviors, what are unhealthy behaviors and what are abusive behaviors,” Gleaves said. “Because the reality is there are survivors of dating violence on Georgetown’s campus, and we want to be able to connect them with the resources they need.”

Tezel appreciated the participatory nature of the tabling activity as students each have their own definitions for relationships.

“What I like about the programming for Domestic Violence Awareness Month is that it very much engages the students on this issue,” Tezel said. “It wants to hear your perspective because there’s no one right answer for how one relationship should be. As long as we can educate ourselves on what’s wrong, we can allow ourselves the liberty to have a flexible happy relationship in whatever forms that might take for us personally.”

Mentioning allies such as Sexual Assault Peer Educators, the Women’s Center, Counseling and Psychiatric Services and Take Back the Night, West hoped that this inaugural event would continue in future years.

“Hopefully we can create better institutional practices around this so that domestic violence awareness month happens continually every single year for October,” West said. “From there, the sky is really the limit in terms of where we can go with this. This has been an incredibly successful first year and I’m excited to see where it’s going to go next year.”

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