Panel discussion spreads relationship abuse awareness

One in 10 ASU students report being emotionally abused in a relationship, and one in 100 ASU students report being sexually abused in a relationship, students from the School of Social Transformation said in a presentation Monday at the Tempe campus. Hard Candy Zine, an ASU feminist club and publication, and the School of Social Transformation partnered to host the Break The Silence, End the Violence panel discussion to educate students about these and similar statistics.

The panel included police officers, counselors and advocates from local domestic violence shelters.

Abuse is any imbalance of power, involving coercion and control of one person by another, and it can be emotional, psychological, technological, financial, sexual and/or physical, the panel said. Brian Kiefling, an officer in ASU Police's Crime Prevention Unit, said his department first talks to individuals who report abuse to figure out if a crime had been committed.

"Sometimes this interaction seems sterile, but we have to look for facts," Kiefling said. "Then we call on our support center to work with the individual that is more supportive in nature."

Kimberly Frick, health educator for the Health Relationships and Sexual Violence Prevention Program at ASU, said the way in which a friend handles the situation of someone they know being abused is important.

"When someone’s been a victim, they’ve just lost all of their power," she said. "What you have to do is be a resource for that person." Society needs to take even small references to domestic violence seriously to educate the public about how members of a healthy relationship should be treated, Frick said.

"When you hear jokes about rape or sexual violence, you need to call them out and let people know that this is not acceptable," she said. "We need to continuously educate people." All panelists agreed that the first step to helping any victim of abuse is believing in them, and then directing them to the proper resources both on and off the ASU campus.

ASU Counseling Services, ASU Health Services, the ASU Police Department, Student Advocacy and Assistance, The National Domestic Violence Hotline and the 24-hour crisis hotline called EMPACT are all services available to ASU students to help those dealing with abusive relationships. ASU alumna Jaime Watson works at the Sojourner Center, a shelter for victims of domestic violence. She addressed the delicacy of handling these situations. "We try not to use the word 'should' because domestic violence is about power control," she said. "So when they leave, we want them to feel empowered, so they are making their own decision about how they leave the situation." The panel said signs of an abusive relationship include someone controlling their partner's activities and social interactions, preventing them from working or attending school and threatening or beating them.

Dr. Jamie Bludworth, associate director of ASU Counseling Services, said it is important to recognize the subtle signs of abuse as well as the obvious ones.

"It’s important to look for the ways they're asking for help without asking for help," he said. "Wearing long sleeves during the summer to cover up bruises on your arm is asking for help. ... Looking at their phone and complaining about their boyfriend hounding them is asking for help without asking for help."

For the future, all four panelists said the greatest key to solving domestic violence is education, as well as further funding of Arizona's shelters and programs, which are now underfunded and turn away around 1,000 people who are seeking help every year, due to lack of resources.

Microbiology sophomore Darrin Anderson said he attended the event to get extra credit for his class, though he also wanted to get a better understanding of a serious issue within his community.

Anderson said his personal experience with abusive relationships makes panels such as this more important, and he would like to see more forums like this around ASU. "It does hit home to me, because I’ve had friends and family that have gone through it before," he said.

Shannon Jenkins, a women and gender studies senior who helped host the event, said the Hard Candy Zine and School of Social Transformation group plans to continue to promote their cause through the Clothesline Project on Oct. 23 to Oct. 25, where they will display shirts with anti-abuse messages. "It’s a really invisible issue," Jenkins said. "A lot of times people don’t know they're in a situation or don’t come forward. We’re not taught anywhere what healthy relationships look like."


Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @mahoneysthename

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