One out of every three women in the world will be physically or sexually abused in her lifetime, according to a study by the United Nations. It is an issue that crosses geography, languages, cultures and races.
In light of these glaring figures, Fullerton College looks to shine a spotlight on violence against women during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, with a week of events designed to give students and faculty a chance to talk openly about issues often kept in the dark.
“It’s an issue that a lot of people don’t talk about but I think it’s more common than people think,” said Jose Solano, the newly elected 2014-15 president of Associated Students. “Those people that have experienced it don’t have an outlet. We have actually had situations where students are walking by, going through some sort of abuse and see the resource to be able to start getting out of it.”
On Tuesday, hundreds of t-shirts filled the Quad as part of the Clothesline Project, presented by the Psychology Department as a testimony to the problem of violence against women written on it.
At the same time, the Political Science Students Association held an annual Walk in Her Heels event. The group challenged men to put on a pair of high heels as a way to encourage men to relate to the issue of violence against women.
Speaking at the event was Holly McCrary, who recounted the story of being stabbed 22 times by an ex-boyfriend in December 2011.
Students also shared their experiences with domestic abuse and the effects it still has on their lives.
“This is empowering and hopefully very helpful for a lot of girls who are suffering from this kind of violence,” McCrary said during the event.
Dawn Foor, supervisor for the Community Service Program Sexual Assault Prevention Education in Orange County, spoke about the fear most women feel walking down a dark street around any man that they do not know.
“If you are going to walk in our shoes, you need to understand that fear,” Foor said.
The week began with guest lecturer Susan Leavy, a marriage and family therapist and sociology teacher from California State University, Fullerton. Leavy hosted a forum with students about intimate partner violence.
About 40 students were in attendance Monday to discuss the perception surrounding domestic violence and how those notions impact the person being abused.
Leavy began the discussion having students list the stereotypes surrounding both the victim and the abuser to demonstrate why people would go to great lengths to deny being in either of those roles. She then turned the room’s attention to the many reasons the abused has to stay in an abusive relationship from hope of things getting better to financial security to fear of death.
Leavy, who has spent years working with victims of intimate partner violence, explained that for women in a relationship with an abuser, the most dangerous time is when they are trying to end it. She said that most women are killed after they lave an abusive relationship.
For many women in abusive relationships, Leavy says they say that the verbal and emotional abuse lingers more than the physical scars.
“You can only hear that you’re fat, stupid and ugly and nobody else will ever love you, so many times from that person that is supposed to love you before you internalize it,” Leavy said.
In the United States, 18.3 percent of women (nearly one in five) have survived a completed or attempted rape, according to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. The Department of Justice says that approximately 1.27 million women are raped each year, which equates to more than 2 women every minute of every day.
The issue is even broader on a global scale, as 35% of women have been victim of abuse or sexual violence in their lifetime, according to the World Health Organization.
For Leavy, awareness about the issue at an early age is the key to eliminating violence against women. She thinks people should start learning about intimate partner violence in middle school, before they normalize these behaviors. She also thinks these event will help more and more people affected by violence.
“People are going to go out and talk about what they heard here and that spreads the word beyond what my presentation is,” Leavy said.
The Sexual Assault Awareness week at Fullerton College concludes Thursday with a self-defense training program from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the Quad followed by the Take Back the Night rally and candlelight vigil.
For more information about intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women on a global scale go to the World Health Organization website at www.who.it.