Domestic Violence Awareness Month sheds light on unhealthy relationships

As October begins, Domestic Violence Awareness Month also begins, with hopes to inspire some time of reflection for those in unhealthy relationships and educate those who might not realize they are.

According to a 2011 Knowledge Networks survey of 508 college students, 43% of dating college women report experiencing abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, tech, verbal or controlling abuse.

Many signs of abuse go beyond having physical marks, and you must pay attention to the whole picture, not just the physical, said Brandy Sutherland, an advocate for Crisis Services.

“When someone is being emotionally abused, belittled or put down, you can see it in their face and movements,” she said.

The Violence Intervention and Victim Advocacy program, through the Weigel Health Center at Buffalo State, is working to get rid of the bystander effect, said Dr. Joan McCool, director of the counseling center.

“We’re trying to get people to be an upstander,” said McCool. “If your friend has a bruise don’t ignore it, say something to them, ask them about it.”

Sutherland also urges people to remember that abuse can also manifest itself financially or emotionally, and not just physically or sexually.

Many abusers manipulate their partner’s income in ways ranging from taking their partners credit card, eating the partner’s food or just taking advantage of anything they can.

Emotional symptoms are also present in abuse victims. Withdrawal, isolation and fear about their partner’s reactions to what the victim is doing are all signs someone is in an uneven relationship.

Another modern day sign of an unhealthy relationship is if one partner expresses anxiety about missing a text message or call from their partner and contacting them immediately.

Though VIVA’s grant ran out this summer, it now runs through the counseling center, so getting help is as easy as contacting the center.

Getting help is free, confidential and could also help victims of abuse stay in school since many of them crack under the personal stress of being in those situations said McCool.

Dr. Jenn Hunt, program coordinator of Buffalo State’s Women and Gender Studies Department, urges victims to use both the on and off campus resources, which she says complement each other and give victims multiple outlets.

“Abusers are very skilled in trying to construct a world that isolates victims from their social networks,” said Hunt.

Case management at Crisis Services includes hospital response, free and confidential therapy, and works with victims through the police, law and court process.  Haven House offers shelter for victims and families in addition to those same services offered by Crisis Services.

The Family Justice Center, which also offers free and confidential counseling, even offers free business cards with contact information for abuse victims that are laminated and foldable for victims to hide in their shoe soles.

Haven House will sponsor “Turning the Falls Purple” on Oct. 16, where Niagara Falls will be illuminated in reflection for survivors and victims of domestic violence.

Also, in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Crisis Services will join the Brazen-Faced Varlets, a local theatre production company, for discussion after their Friday night performances of “Some Wicked Women This Way Come.”

An original, dealing with themes of domestic abuse, the play runs from Oct. 10 to Oct. 26 on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays at Rust Belt Books.  Tickets are $13.

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