Editor’s note: This article contains descriptions of intimate partner violence that may be disturbing to some readers. Students can contact the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center at (734) 764-7771 or visit its offices in North Quad. SAPAC also has a 24-hour crisis line at (734) 936-3333.
While frequent campus crime alerts warn of aggressive sexual assaults by strangers, the issue of intimate partner violence is common and not as easy to see, though its effects can be just as damaging.
Wednesday night, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center held a vigil on the Diag for those who have died as a result of intimate partner violence. About 25 people attended the vigil, listening to stories about sexual assault, lighting candles, reading a card mural made by allies and survivors of intimate partner violence, and participating in a minute of silence in honor of those who have died. SAPAC, SafeHouse Center and the School of Social Work’s New Visions organization co-hosted the vigil.
LSA junior Anna Forringer-Beal and LSA senior Katelyn Maddock, co-coordinators for the networking, publicity and activism program at SAPAC, said the vigil was meant to raise awareness of the realities of intimate partner violence and to express support for survivors.
“It’s hard to think about intimate partner violence happening on a college campus,” Forringer-Beal said. “But we hope that people realize that it does. And even if it’s not happening right here and now, there are a lot of people on campus whose lives have been affected by it, whether it was their parents or friends.”
Maddock said SAPAC uses the specific term “intimate partner violence” as opposed to “domestic violence” to signal that this type of violence can happen between people who do not cohabitate. It can happen after a first date or after years of a relationship. Forringer-Beal stressed that intimate partner violence can be physical, emotional and sexual.
A new component of the vigil this year was a card mural decorated either with hands and hearts or T-shirts. Allies decorated and wrote messages of support on the hand-and-heart cards, while survivors did the same with the T-shirt cards. Messages included “I believe in you. It’s not your fault” and “You are loved.”
“We hope having all of these cards is a powerful representation of people on campus who have been affected by violence or people who know someone who’s been affected by this,” Maddock said. “This isn’t an issue that is absent from our campus — it’s something that happens everywhere and almost every minute of the day.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, one in four women and one in seven men have gone through severe intimate partner violence in their lifetimes.
Before the minute of silence, Forringer-Beal and Maddock shared stories and statistics relating to intimate partner violence. Forringer-Beal told the story of Tamara Williams, an LSA senior in 1997 who was stabbed to death by her boyfriend on North Campus.
“To all the students, the ladies, the men, I just want to say, just be careful, take care of yourselves … if you have a problem, tell somebody. Tell your mother. Tell your father. Tell somebody,” Williams’ mother said in a memorial lecture in 2003.