October is a month full of awareness, from Breast Cancer to Lupus to Alcohol. One cause that sometimes goes unnoticed, is the fact that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness month.
Many students do not think they can be victims of domestic violence because they consider it to be something that can only happen to married couples or couples who live together.
However, as Dr. Philip Ruthkosky puts it, “domestic violence, dating abuse and sexual assault are related.”
This means that domestic violence is something students are certainly susceptible to.
According to the Sexual Assault Prevention & Awareness Center (SAPAC), many students feel isolated from their support networks and resources on their college campus to report domestic violence.
Ruthkosky, the associate dean of student affairs and student development, is very well versed when it comes to this topic. He said “every person experiences trauma differently.”
Ruthkosky also said the main aspect that causes assaults to go unreported is fear; the fear that the victim will not be believed, fear that they will be an outcast, or fear that their parents will make them leave school once they find out.
A major fear is that a victim feels they have nowhere to turn. Because of these factors, roughly 90% or assaults on college campuses go unreported.
Ruthkosky is determined to keep Wilkes out of that statistic. To do so, he encourages our community to “make it about all of us” because “students are at the ground level of what happens on campuses.”
Students see what faculty, advisers, and teachers often do not. Everyone needs to look out for one another, respect one another and recognize the signs, symbols, and behaviors associated with a predator and with violence.
He stresses that victims have an extraordinary burden placed on them and they need the support of the community.
The most obvious effort to educate in this matter has been seen by many first year studenrs over the past few weeks when they had to take the mystudentbody.com Essentials Course.
This online course educates students about drugs, alcohol, and sexual violence. Ruthkosky says the program, with all three parts, has been in place for three years.
Before this, the program only educated students about drugs and alcohol. The importance of teaching about sexual violence is recognized and by including that in the course, students will be better able to identify and stop an assault.
He also wants to ensure that students know there are outlets for them if they are a victim. There are counselors on campus, health service employees, and the Victim’s Resource Center.
They can also call a 24-hour victim’s resource hotline. There is no reason a student should go through it alone.
Shawn Carey, president of BACCHUS (Boosting Alchohol Consciousness Concerning Health of University Students), was recently given the opportunity to be a part of the movement to educate about and prevent domestic violence on campus.
Wilkes has recently implemented a Bystander Intervention Program. This program allows students, like Carey, to be trained in how to take a leadership role when it comes to education and prevention of sexual violence.
Carey, along with other students, were educated about the dangers of sexual violence, the prevalence of rape culture, and how important it is to take a stand and intervene.
The students who were trained in the program will now go to classes and talk to students to spread awareness about domestic and sexual violence.
Gail Holby, adviser of BACCHUS and director of the Substance Abuse Task Force, agreed with much of what Ruthkosky stated. She said that victims fail to report an assault because they are fearful of retaliation and do not know what is available to them.
She says all students should know that victims are granted support services such as accompaniment to the hospital, access to ongoing information, assistance in reporting to the police, and protection from the perpetrator. All of which is absolutely confidential.
Statistics about domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking say that individuals ages 16-24 are the most vulnerable and it is most prevalent among that age group.
The number of assaults on our campus will be reduced through prevention and education. To quote Ruthkosky, “you can safely and effectively make a difference.”