Every nine seconds, someone is beaten by his or her domestic partner and according to the U.S. Department of Justice a woman is raped every two minutes in America.
While these statistics give an idea of how widespread the problem of relationship abuse and sexual assault is, it is hard to imagine what victims go through every day.
There are many myths and misconceptions about relationship abuse and sexual assault, and this calls for much-needed educational programs. These types of abuses and assaults are not restricted to specific types of relationships or people. Studies have been conducted that find a set of personality traits shared by domestic violence victims.
The stereotype may be that domestic violence is a problem that plagues minorities or the poor, but in fact, members of any income level, occupation, social class or culture are equally capable of violence and assault.
In addition, abuse and sexual assault is not limited to heterosexual relationships. Gay and lesbian relationships can also include domestic abuse. Victims in gay and lesbian relationships may be hesitant to come forward for fear that no one would believe them.
Abuse is also not limited to age and can include children, teenagers and the elderly. Being abused in a relationship can leave victims feeling helpless and alone, so it certainly takes a great deal of courage for these victims to reach out for help.
Sexual assault can also certainly be committed outside relationships and victimizers can be strangers or acquaintances.
Here at UCI, there are many resources available to victims of abuse and others who want to become educated about the issues.
At the Center for Women and Men, numerous brochures and flyers line the walls near the entrance, encouraging people to seek help through any and every avenue possible. Christine Fredericks, director of the center, explained several of the center’s goals, including dealing with abuse.
‘Our mission statement actually approaches four different areas that we’re trying to encourage, including gender equity. We’re also trying to encourage the development of personal empowerment and mutual respectful relationships and the elimination of relationship violence and sexual assault,’ Fredericks said.
Within the center itself, there is a program that is specifically aimed at dealing with assault. The Campus Assault Resource Program is a source of information for students and support for victims of assault.
Several annual programs supporting CARP are held to draw awareness to these issues. One that many may have seen on campus during the fall and spring quarters is the Clothesline Project, which consists of displayed T-shirts designed by survivors of sexual assault and relationship violence. The display is put up outside the CWM during the spring and fall quarters.
By allowing survivors to express the emotional, psychological and physical trauma of these incidents, viewers can begin to understand the severity of these issues, and awareness is raised. The hope is that as awareness is raised, victims will be more willing to come forward and these incidents will be prevented from happening again.
Donna Norris, assistant director for the Center for Women and Men and coordinator of CARP talked about the significance of the designed shirts.
‘Each different color shirt stands for a different type of violence and survivors can make a shirt as part of their healing process,’ Norris said.
Many of the shirts tell intimate details of rape, violence and abuse, and they give others a small sense of the effect of these actions on the victims. Many find the display truly moving and effective in drawing attention to the emotional pain and life-long trauma sustained by these survivors.
Another program that plays a large role in educating the UCI community about issues of abuse is Unspeakable Acts. This program consists of a drama production demonstrating through monologues and dialogues the harmful effects of sexual assault.
‘Unspeakable Acts typically takes place in the fall, because students are most at risk for sexual assault [during] their freshman year between the beginning of school and Thanksgiving, so we really try to concentrate our programs at that time,’ Norris said.
By educating viewers on proper boundaries and consent, the program aims to decrease the incidents of sexual assaults that result from ignorance about what form and types of consent are needed.
As for situations where the attacker is known to the victim, such as a party, simply leave the situation if you feel uncomfortable and know what type of behavior makes you uncomfortable. Also, avoid excessive use of alcohol or drugs, as they are often involved in sexual assault situations.
In cases of attacks by strangers, there are a variety of things students can do to protect themselves. A useful form of protection to have is pepper spray or mace. This is a good ways to guard yourself because they hurt the attacker long enough for you to get away and call the police, without permanent damage.
Of course, students should always remember basic and effective safety rules to avoid attacks by strangers. For instance, when walking at night to your car, make a conscious effort to be aware of you surroundings. The workshops offered by CARP can educate students about these types of situations and how to properly avoid them.
Take Back the Night is an additional CARP program that is taking place on May 18 at 7:00 p.m. in front of the CWM. It includes a candlelight vigil and march, as well as stations with visual displays or artistic performances that raise awareness about violence and its affects.
Norris also explained other educational programs offered by CARP.
‘We also have a peer education program that looks at eliminating sexual assault, such as programs, presentations and workshops that focus on these topic areas,’ Norris said.
The workshops offered by CARP include a variety of topics aimed at informing students on issues having to do with relationship abuse and sexual assault. For example, ‘Red Flags’ is a workshop that helps students identify the warning signs of an abusive relationship and how to seek help and support. ‘Good Sex’ discusses how to achieve ‘mutual sexual gratification’ through defining consent, how to set boundaries and the importance of communication.
Another interesting workshop, ‘Dear Hip-Hop,’ explores how women are portrayed in hip-hop and how it relates to violence against women. Other workshops include information on rape, drugs and alcohol and how they relate to sexual assault, how to help a friend who has been sexually assaulted and aspects in our culture that support violence against women.
For those who are feel they need help or want to talk about issues of relationship abuse, a wide array of campus resources are available to students.
‘There are a lot of resources on campus to support people in this situation. The Counseling Center, of course, is a place where students can get ongoing personal and emotional counseling,’ Fredericks said.