Domestic violence can have a profound affect on victims, but it also affects the community at large.
In an effort to stem the tide of abusive relationships, York College held a workshop on Domestic Violence Awareness Day, on Thursday, October 29. The event raised awareness and shed some light on a topic that is not always so easily discussed in public.
“Domestic violence affects everyone,” said Jaime Rivas-Williams, vice president of the York College Social Work Club. “It doesn’t have a label and can affect black or white, man or woman. It happens, and awareness is the key.”
William Dinello, dean for the executive office at York College, had some first hand experience with victims of domestic violence during his time as a clinical social worker.
“My background before York was as a clinical social worker and I saw many cases of domestic violence in the emergency room,” said Dinello. “Having that experience heightened my awareness of domestic violence.”
Dinello said that many people do not understand the different kinds of domestic abuse that occurs behind closed doors. Domestic violence is not exclusively physical.
“There are many intricacies of domestic abuse that people don’t understand,” he said. “Domestic abuse can be as subtle as withholding medication.”
It is these subtleties that cause the most damage to the victim, according to Enidia Seoane of the Safe Horizon crisis center.
“Abusers want to control all aspects of their victim’s life,” said Seoane. “They control the money, where they go, who they see. It’s physical and emotional abuse.”
Safe Horizon’s mission is to provide support and prevention for victims of domestic violence in the community. They also provide legal and educational services.
“If you’re educated, you have a better chance of getting out of a bad situation,” she said.
Moreover, education is the key to breaking the cycle of violence. Kirsten deFur, director of research and prevention programs from the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, said that educating young people means setting a good example for them to follow.
“You can say a lot to teens about healthy relationships, but we have to show them,” said deFur. “Relationships are a lot of hard work and they have to know that.”
Teens also have to know that they have rights and should never think that they do not deserve a healthy relationship.
“Everyone in this world has a right to a healthy relationship and a right to end it and leave,” said deFur.
For those who know someone in an abusive relationship, deFur stressed the importance of being a positive force in their life.
“Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do for a victim is lift them up emotionally,” she said. “They need to know that they can be happy and that there is good in the world.”
Leroy Gadsden, the Domestic Violence Liaison from the New York State Office of Mental Health, said that we need to stop demonizing the victim and start ostracizing the abuser.
“We must embrace the victim, not stigmatize them,” said Gadsden. “Don’t judge the victim, show them support.”