Students reflect on domestic violence

Abigail Suddarth

All of the students bowed their heads as they listened to the 45 rings symbolizing the 45 people who were lost due to domestic violence at the lake behind the Liberal Arts Center this afternoon.

All of the students bowed their heads as they listened to the 45 rings symbolizing the 45 people who were lost due to domestic violence at the lake behind the Liberal Arts Center this afternoon.

Khloe Miller, became one of 45 victims who died as a result of  domestic violence last year in Indiana alone. Miller was shot and killed by her boyfriend who then turned the gun on himself.

The freshman psychology major’s story opened the Flowers on the Lake Ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

Students and faculty members marched silently from the Liberal Arts building to Reflection Lake in honor of victims and survivors of domestic abuse.

Each person in attendance received a pamphlet rolled up in a cone shape containing a variety of colored rose petals. At the end of the event everyone threw their petals into the lake.

The Albion Fellows Bacon Center, the Sexual Assault and Gender Violence Prevention Task Force, the Counseling Center, the SAC Club and the Gender Studies program sponsored the event.

Dyllan Kemp, a criminal justice and sociology major who witnessed domestic abuse both in her family and through a friend read Paullette Kelly’s poem “I Got Flowers Today.”

“I think it’s really important that we all come together and say something, especially at a college campus,” the junior said.

Events like Flowers on the Lake keep people aware of the issues, which can lead to survivors seeking help, Kemp said.

“If it helped one person it was worth it,” she said.

Associate professor of criminal justice and director of gender studies Melinda Roberts concluded the event by ringing a bell 45 times to honor the victims who died of domestic violence related deaths last year.

Domestic abuse is broad both in the types of relationships where it takes place and what type of abuses occur, said Counseling Center senior staff psychologist Stephanie Cunningham.

Abuse can occur in dating relationships, between parents and children, between roommates and other close relationships, not just in marriages, the Outreach and Training Coordinator said.

“It’s not a heterosexual-specific phenomenon,” she said. “So I think often times folks in the LBGTQ community are left out of this conversation.”

Abusive behaviors include emotional manipulation, verbal abuse, dictating how one’s partner dresses, controlling their finances, limiting who they spend their time with and in extreme cases physical abuse and homicide, Cunningham said.

“Most abusive relationships don’t start out as abusive,” she said, “and that is a key part of why they occur and why people stay in them.”

Usually abusive relationships start out wonderfully and slowly the abuser becomes more critical of the abused partner, Cunningham said. The abused partner then makes excuses for their abuser in hopes of eventually returning to when their relationship was good.

“(The relationship) will go from fairytale, wonderful, over-the-top fantastic to start being more critical and jealous and controlling and over time that will become more prevalent,” she said. “The abusive partner would start putting more controls on who the abused partner could spend time with, and manipulate them until they are isolated from everybody else.”

Red flags for abusive relationships include jealousy, isolating a partner from friends and family and restricting what activities the partner can do, Cunningham said.

“If you see bruises on your loved one and they’ve got the story that sounds pretty shady and unlikely,” she said. “It’s a very big indicator that there could be something that’s going on.”

Watching a loved one go through an abusive relationship can be hard, Cunningham said, but it’s important to remain supportive for when he or she is finally ready to leave the relationship.

“But I will say that it is so hard for people to retain that support because it’s like watching a loved one with an addiction,” she said. “You want really badly for them to make better, healthier choices, but if they’re not quite at that point yet of being able to do that, then there’s not a whole lot that we can do besides just be there and be supportive.”

Once a person is finally ready to leave his or her abusive relationship, Cunningham said, their loved ones can help them to seek resources such as the Albion Fellows Bacon Center, the Counseling Center or the YWCA.

The Albion Fellows Bacon Center provides a shelter for domestic abuse survivors as well as support group counseling and legal advocacy, intern Alix MacDonald said.

“We provide advocates to the hospitals,” the senior psychology and gender studies double major said. “Any time there’s a victim that visits an emergency room for either domestic violence or sexual assault we’re called out by the hospitals.”

All services at the center are free of charge and confidential, she said.

“There’s so much bystander effect with domestic violence,” MacDonald said. “We see it and we think it doesn’t actually happen in lives like ours, but just for one person to say, ‘Are you okay?’ or,  ‘Do you feel safe all the time in your relationship?’ can save someone’s life.”