Becoming the victim

By Carol Dwyer
March 23, 2011

This semester, my engagements in the common good (ECG) class focuses on dating and domestic violence, as well as how to help victims of abuse.

On Wednesday, March 16, my ECG class, taught by English professor Amy (DeBlasis) Persichetti, watched as signs were being hung up around room 358-A in Founders Hall. We found out that these signs would be part of an important activity in which they represented places where a domestic violence victim can go for safety and help.

In the activity, each of us had to pretend that we were a 27 or 29-year-old woman with a 7-year-old son who suffers from asthma, a 4-year-old daughter and 5-year-old cat.

We were supplied with a pack of cards in yellow and green, both colors varying in numbers from person to person. The yellow card was for “good will” and could be used at the signs, or “stations,” that didn’t cost any money.

The green cards represented the money we had on hand while trying to seek a safe place to go with the children and cat. Everyone started at the “home” station, and awaited various domestic violence scenarios to be presented to us so we could decide what to do next.

The scenarios included increasing concern about the husband’s violent behavior, shoving down a staircase, slamming the car door on a hand, the husband stalking while we stay at a family or friend’s home and even the husband being drunk while threatening to kill with a gun.

Upon hearing each scenario, one at a time, getting worse and worse, we decided whether to stay at the “home” station or leave for safety.

The other stations included family and friends, which cost one yellow good-will card. Going to the police cost three yellow cards.

The option to go to a hotel cost five green-money cards, while an apartment cost four green cards. A shelter cost one yellow card; however, it had a “closed” sign on that station to complicate our options.

Whenever it did open, it only accepted a limited number of people. The foster care option also cost one yellow card. However, as one student found out from choosing that option, it meant the kids could eventually end up back with the abusive husband.

The majority of those still at home finally left after the scenario came up that involved the husband being drunk and threatening with a gun.

As we went to various stations, Persichetti and Laurel House representative Tommie Wilkins played the roles of whoever we went to. If someone went to the “police” station, they acted as police officers and told them how they could and could not help.

It was frustrating for us as we acted out the roles of domestic violence victims and saw our options running out, depending on which cards and how many we had left. My classmates and I became increasingly unsure of what to do next in order to stay safe until the role-playing activity was over.

This showed me that domestic violence victims need as many financial resources as possible to avoid going back to the abuser. Something needs to be done so that never becomes an option for anyone.

However, this is what made it a very good activity. It showed me just how quickly the options run out for someone in this situation, especially on little to no money and with concerns of the safety of kids and a pet.

We had to think about the son’s medical attention for asthma and related costs. We had to cover apartment expenses and basic necessities to survive.

Persichetti and Wilkins also took on the roles of two gossipy women at a local bus stop. In one example of gossip, there was talk of the condition in which the kids are sent to school in old, ragged clothes.

At this point, I had been staying at the family and friends station and had to buy the kids some clothes. It took my only two green money cards. I stayed at the same station throughout most of the activity, until Wilkins held up a sign that said, “welcome worn out.”

With only a few yellow good-will cards left in my hand, I could not go anywhere that cost money. This meant that I had to go back to the “home” station and back to the abusive husband.

It was at that point of the activity that I realized how, in real life, this could be the moment at which a domestic violence victim also becomes a murder victim.

As we learn to be advocates for victims of domestic violence, this activity will go a long way in helping us to understand them and think about what it’s like in their shoes.

The ECG 300 class on dating and domestic violence is one that I recommend for those heading into 300-level undergraduate coursework. It directly shows how college students can help others through the studies they take on.

Taking this class has been very eye-opening and I never thought I would learn so much about domestic violence and how I can help victims.


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Carol Dwyer

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