National domestic violence symposium raises campus awareness

By Jeny Varughese
October 5, 2011

The Domestic Violence Symposium, geared towards a campus-wide education and awareness, was held on Tuesday, Oct. 4 in the Grace Hall Atrium. Students, faculty, staff and members of the local community attended the event to learn about domestic violence and its effects on individuals.

Lynn Rosenthal, White House advisor on Violence Against Women and Bill Mitchell, founder of the Kristin Mitchell Foundation, were among the keynote speakers focused on the issue of domestic violence.

Tracy Davidson, NBC10 anchor and consumer reporter, moderated a panel discussion on dating violence among students and how to identify helpful resources. Among the panelists was Tommie Wilkinson, director of community education at Laurel House.  Laurel House is an agency which helps individuals who are victims of domestic violence.

“I hope students will learn about the issues of domestic violence and step up to help friends and victims who are affected,” Wilkinson said.

The topic of domestic violence hit close to home for several attendees.

“I grew up with it,” Davidson said. “As young as I could remember, I would hear mom and dad fighting downstairs in our home and as I got older, the violence got worse so my brother and I would have to break down my parents door to go in and help my mom.”

Davidson recalls that dinner arguments would escalate to the point where there would be flying plates. Having dealt with domestic violence as a child, she would like people, who are educated on the issue, to be advocates for others and to educate others on the issues and warning signs.

Bill Mitchell, founder of the Kristin Mitchell foundation, recalled the day he heard the news of the murder of his daughter.

“The last day I ever saw my daughter alive was on her graduation day at St. Josephs University,” Mitchell said.

Students were amazed by the impact of the event. Although students were aware of the issue of domestic violence, this event turned out to be an eye-opener.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Samuel Cummer, sophomore undecided major, said. “Watching the video about Kristin, I shed tears. I think the people who came to speak about their experiences were courageous and moving.”

“I have never thought about the impact of domestic violence and how important it is,” Hannah Wheat, junior social work and psychology major, said.  “I knew about the issue and that it happened a lot but I didn’t know what I can do to help.”

The event committee hopes to make it an annual event. The main focus of the event was to bring awareness about the issue of domestic violence to the campus community.

“We wanted to spread the word about domestic violence awareness,” Dr. Colleen Lelli, assistant professor of education, said. “The focus of the event is on how we can actively change, make policies and move forward in the domestic violence initiative.”

The afternoon sessions focused on this issue included, Local Action: Cabrini College Policy, Community response to Domestic Violence, Developmental continuum of Age-Appropriate Domestic-Violence Education and several other sessions geared towards education about the issue.

The final presentation of the day was given by Rosenthal. It  involved the audience by providing the opportunity to propose a 30-second sound byte to state why the issue of domestic violence should be addressed.

“I didn’t understand how deeply our country is suffering until I read a report in 1991 titled ‘A week in the life of American women,’ which detailed acts of abuse women in this country experienced,” Rosenthal said. “At the time I was running a shelter. I see the emergencies in front of me every day but I didn’t understand how deeply our country was affected.”

The different sessions held throughout the day focused on educating the campus about warning signs of dating and domestic violence and interpersonal violence.

President George (pictured left) with Lynn Rosenthal, White House advisor on violence against women, spoke in Grace Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 4.


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Jeny Varughese

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