Students educated on domestic violence

Rebecca Dunphy, Staff writer

This October marks the 29th annual Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The month is a time dedicated to mourning for victims of domestic abuse, celebration of survivors and connection of those who work to end violence.

In recognition of this, the Mercyhurst University Empowerment and Prevention Program (MEPP) has partnered with SafeNet to create educational displays across campus highlighting the dangers of domestic violence.

SafeNet is a nonprofit organization providing free confidential services such as counseling, legal advocacy, education and shelter to victims of domestic violence.
It is currently Erie’s only accredited domestic violence agency.

Mercyhurst has become involved with the organization to educate students about violence in our societies and how we can prevent it. MEPP was created through the Campus Program Grant from the Department of Justice, and is intended to decrease the occurrence of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking.

Purple ribbons are visible across campus to commemorate victims. Purple is the color of domestic violence awareness, and ribbons are mainly found around the trees at Zurn Hall.

Another form of silent activism on campus is the presence of red female silhouettes holding domestic violence statistics. Located in the Joan D. Chittister Room between the CAE and Hammermill Library, these red human figures have been placed as part of the wider Silent Witness Project.

During this month, MEPP Project Manager Ariel Dodick is working with SafeNet Marketing and Fund Development Coordinator Carolyn Tomm. Both have extensive training in these fields and are excited about what they can bring to students this month with events and programming.

“The goals of the project are to foster strategies that move the campus culture towards one of increased interpersonal respect,” Tomm said.

According to Dodick, domestic violence awareness will be carried out through trainings, updates in policy, victim and survivor support services and awareness initiatives.
The red silhouettes are one example of the strong history of Domestic Violence Awareness month. This is a 27-year-old project originated in Minnesota and has since been seen throughout the country in memory of countless victims.
“It is our hope that students will take a second to think about the issue of domestic violence and provide support and solidarity to those with abusive partners,” Dodick said. “It is important for students to know that issues such as domestic violence do not happen within specific communities of the population, but as a hidden epidemic throughout every community.”

Tomm shared similar sentiments. “We are hoping students realize that domestic violence is very prevalent, can lead to lethal results and can happen to anyone,” Tomm said.
“We hope (this month) invokes students to want to remember the victims and stand for a future free from domestic violence.”

The figurines were created as a student project at the Regional Skill Center, with additional figures being donated by MegaGrafix. They will also be seen across Erie throughout the month.

Though October is nearing a close, MEPP and SafeNet’s on-campus efforts will not end so soon.

Prior to the Dance department’s Nov. 9 performance of Symphony in Motion, a reception will be held in support of the Jenni-Lyn Watson Memorial Scholarship Fund, highlighting domestic violence prevention. Tickets to the reception and performance are $50.

Students should expect to see more awareness campaigns, opportunities for training, strengthening of support services, prevention efforts and a continued relationship with SafeNet.