While Violence Prevention and Response (VPR) stages special events and communications to mark the 30th annual National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, VPR staff work year-round to educate students, faculty, and staff on sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, harassment, and stalking, and to support community members who are victims themselves. “A month of awareness activities in October help VPR and student allies advance conversations about topics like intimate partner violence,” said Kelley Adams, assistant dean and director of VPR in the Division of Student Life. “But, it’s important to remember that making significant progress on prevention requires ongoing efforts that continue well after awareness months have passed.”
“Our VPR team members are caring, compassionate, and conscientious, and always willing to help students and other community members who are experiencing violence in their relationships, or feeling threatened or intimidated,” said Suzy Nelson, vice president and dean for student life. “The activities of VPR and student allies send powerful messages that intimate partner violence is never OK at MIT or anywhere else.” Staff are available by appointment during working hours, or anytime through VPR’s 24-hour hotline (617-253-2300).
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), one in three women and one in four men have been victims of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner in their lifetimes. Likewise, one in seven women and one in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner, and annually more than 10 million women and men in the U.S. are physically abused by an intimate partner.
This month, VPR posted NCADV data on social media, accompanied by reminders that VPR supports any community member who has been affected—directly or indirectly—by relationship violence. Through the end of October, MIT hosts the Silent Witness Project, a striking visual display of life-sized silhouettes that tell the stories of domestic violence homicide victims. This international initiative started in 1990 when a group of women artists, writers, and women’s organizations in Minnesota used silhouettes to tell the stories of 26 women who died in acts of domestic violence. A 27th silhouette was added to signify women who died by the hand of a husband, ex-husband, partner, or acquaintance, but whose deaths were unsolved or ruled accidental. The Silent Witness project will be on the first floor of the Stratton Student Center (W20) until November 3.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is happening at a remarkable time. The #metoo social media campaign was created ten years ago to help people understand the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in society, but has seen a resurgence recently. Many victims have embraced #metoo, while others have chosen not to share their experiences. “It is important to acknowledge people may have a wide range of reactions to #metoo, ranging from anger and frustration to validation and feeling less alone,” Adams said. “The decision to speak out about one’s own experiences of harassment or assault is a personal one.”
Nonetheless, sexual and relationship violence remain serious and widespread issues. “Sexual assault and sexual harassment happen to people of all identities and in a range of circumstances, from intimate settings to the workplace,” Adams said. “We hope that the information VPR shared in October will encourage anyone at MIT who has experienced partner violence to reach out to us. We are here to help anyone who needs it.”