Relationship Violence Awareness Month

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It’s that time of year again. In a state that barely has real seasons, trees actually start to change color, and the temperature drops below 80 — it’s finally October. For students, that means midterms are right around the corner. For parents, it’s time to start thinking about trick or treating. For everyone in between, pumpkin-flavored delicacies emerge to spice up every meal of the day.

But let’s not forget that October also means the start of Relationship Violence Awareness Month (RVAM)Relationship violence – sometimes referred to as intimate partner violence, dating violence, or domestic violence – is the occurrence of interpersonal violence within an intimate relationship or after the relationship has ended.

Some of you might be thinking that you’re already aware of domestic violence or that you already have a fairly good concept of what it is, but I challenge you to think more deeply about it this month. Generally, the dominant narrative is a man beating or otherwise physically hurting his wife. But in reality, relationship violence doesn’t always look the way you think it might.

We often forget that those who experience psychological or emotional abuse, sexual assault, and financial abuse all relationships — not just marriages and heterosexual relationships — are victims of domestic violence as well.

Relationship violence is based in one partner’s desire to exercise control over another partner, and that control can be realized using a variety of tactics of manipulation and abuse. These tactics often involve isolating the victim from their family and friends, working to lower their self-esteem, and coercing them to do things they don’t want to do.

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Awesome Anti-Violence Campaigns from Around the World

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As a freshman in high school, I was required to take an introductory health course. Out of the months I spent in the class, there is only one lecture that I still remember. It revolved solely around the issue of rape and sexual assault. The first half dealt with your basic crime and perpetration statistics. It’s really the second portion of the lecture that’s stuck with me all these years. We were given a list of strategies for preventing sexual assault which included gems such as “don’t wear revealing clothing,” “never go out alone,” and “don’t consume alcohol.” From conversations I’ve had with peers, I’ve come to recognize that my experience was in no way isolated or unique.

Countless young people are taught, either through official school curriculum or through daily interactions with media coverage of sexual assault, that rape is a crime that can and should be prevented by the victim. In these lessons, the perpetrator is barely mentioned, much less held accountable. This strategy is problematic for a variety of reasons: not only does it make a survivor feel responsible for an experienced assault, it also creates an imagined ‘checklist’ in many people’s heads. “If a survivor didn’t follow all of these instructions, then what did they expect? Of course they were going to be assaulted!” Attitudes like this HAVE TO STOP. And employing accurate and supportive educational curriculum is one of the best ways to discredit these viewpoints.

Luckily, there seems to be an ever-growing trend of informed and sensitive ad campaigns that rely on principles of bystander intervention and enthusiastic consent rather than scare tactics, purity myths, and victim blaming. Read on for some of my favorite examples from around the (English-speaking) world.

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2014 Community Award Recipients

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Each year, we recognize individuals and organizations that have made substantial contributions to our cause of ending sexual violence. We recently presented awards to community members and partners at our Gratitude Gala in September:

  • The Mary Ann Chap Award for Community Service was presented to Mediterranean Deli of Chapel Hill and to Lt. Keith Webster of the Carrboro Police Department.
  • The Margaret Henderson Award for Service & Self-Care was presented to Christi Hurt, Assistant Vice Chancellor/Chief of Staff in Student Affairs at UNC-Chapel Hill.
  • The Margaret Barrett Award for Advocacy was presented to Kelli Raker, Sexual Violence Prevention Coordinator at UNC-Chapel Hill.

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October is Relationship Violence Awareness Month

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October is the month of frights. We spend time decorating our homes with caution tape, webs, and danger signs, surround ourselves with scary movies, and finding the perfect costume to disguise ourselves. The mysticism that surrounds us this month is reminiscent of a wide scale problem we often shy away from talking about. This October, as we recognize Relationship Violence Awareness Month, I ask you to take the mask off of domestic and interpersonal violence, so we can have an honest conversation about something that is truly terrifying.

The Centers for Disease Control reported that with every minute that goes by, 24 people are victims to sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. Unfortunately, most of these cases are not reported. As a society we have formed a collective silence over domestic abuse and intimate partner violence. High profile cases, like that of NFL’s Ray Rice, paint a single view of relationship violence and put further blame on the victim. Instead of asking why he hit her, much of the focus shifted to why his partner, Janay Palmer, didn’t leave.

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NFL Announces Funding for Anti-Violence Programs

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On Friday, the National Football League (NFL) announced their commitment to multi-year funding to help state and local programs serve survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The funding will be shared between the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), who will direct support to state coalitions.

In addition to funding, the NFL is committing to host violence prevention education sessions for all 32 NFL teams. Players, coaches, staff, and executives will receive education about domestic and sexual violence as well as information about resources and organizations in their own communities.

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