WSU’s domestic violence awareness efforts

A flag with the domestic violence ribbon on it flying in the wind. (MGN)

Since 1989, October has been recognized as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In the state of Utah, 1 in 3 women will be a victim of domestic violence. Throughout this month, Weber State University’s Women’s Center wants to draw as much attention to this issue as possible.

“A huge part of these awareness months is to show survivors and victims, whether or not they’re able to seek help right away, that there is help available, and that there are people who care, who are trained and know what the resources are,” Paige Davies, director of the Women’s Center, said. “They know how to help somebody to be safe, and they’re there for when they’re ready for it. Even if they’re not ready to leave — or want to leave — the relationship in October, we’re still gonna be there in November, December and January.”

As of right now, there are not enough resources and/or information to create statistics on domestic violence within the WSU student body. However, the Utah domestic violence statistics are much higher than the national average.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 33.6% of women and 21.4% of men in Utah will fall victim to domestic violence within their lifetime. In comparison, nationally, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men will fall victim to domestic violence within their lifetime. The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition estimates that, every year, 80 children in the state of Utah will witness the murder or attempted murder of their mother.

“I wish more people knew just how common it is,” Mercedes Ziegler, violence prevention coordinator for [email protected], said. “In Utah, about 1 in 3 women experience domestic violence, which is higher than the national average. Just understanding that it happens regardless of your socio-economic class, your race or gender. Anyone is affected by it, and it happens a lot. I wish people knew it was a lot more pervasive than we think it is.”

Because domestic violence rates are higher in the state of Utah, students and staff at Weber State have access to resources to prevent and end domestic violence if and when it occurs. The Women’s Center has resources for victims and survivors of domestic violence that are open to anyone at Weber State at any time of year.

“I think it’s just important for people to know that the Women’s Center offers victim advocacy services,” Davies said. “It’s free and confidential for students and employees. We serve everybody. Violence in relationships doesn’t happen just to women or just to people in straight relationships. We serve men and non-binary individuals and people in all different sexual oritenations. There’s not one way a victim looks or lives their life, and we’re open for everybody to seek support.”

Throughout the month of October, the Women’s Center is holding events not just to spread awareness of domestic violence, but to support victims who may need help coming forward. They hope the events this month will prompt victims or those whose loved ones may be victims to come forward and find support.

“Our overall messaging is to make people aware that they are not alone,” Ziegler said. “So, if they have experienced [domestic violence] or they know somebody who has experienced it, there are resources out there. We’re trying to shed light on conversations, so that way, it’s not such a ‘hush-hush’ type situation. Just getting out there and letting people know that they’re not alone and that there’s people out there for them.”

The events of the month include a clothesline display of t-shirts created by survivors of domestic violence to honor victims that will be displayed in the Shepherd Union from Oct. 3-31.

There will be a Supporting Survivors Event on Oct. 4 to highlight [email protected] advocacy. There will also be two “Boo’d Up” workshops on starting healthy relationships on Oct. 12 and 26. Additionally, there will also be a Title IX 50th anniversary event on Oct. 12 and a Human Trafficking Symposium on Oct. 27. Information for these events will be available in the Women’s Center newsletter.

The Women’s Center also wants to use this month to highlight that domestic violence is not always what people expect it to be.

“Harm can happen in all different types of relationships, even if you’re not living with the person,” Davies said. “It can happen in dating relationships. It happens in casual relationships. It can take many different forms, not just physical. Intimate partner violence is a cycle of power and control. That can be emotional abuse or financial abuse, social isolation. All of these things might kind of happen before physical violence happens. Those might be red flags in a relationship. Maybe that is what happens and physical violence never happens. That’s still abuse and that’s still harm and causing harm within the relationship.”

Throughout the month, Weber State and the Women’s Center are dedicated to creating awareness for the resources on campus for domestic violence survivors.

“The first step to ending any kind of violence in a community is awareness,” Ziegler said. “Making people aware of our statistics, not only nationally, but here in Utah because they are higher than the national average, making people aware of the resources, confronting all of the myths about it and really just talking about it. That is what opens doors for prevention and intervention and ultimately putting survivors on a path to healing.”

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please contact the Women’s Center at 1-801-626-6090, the National Domestic Violence 24/7 Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or the YCC Crisis Center 24/7 Hotline at 1-801-392-7273.