Students gathered Tuesday to discuss and learn about the issue of domestic violence in the lower level of the Compton Union Building.
The reflection, sponsored by the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) and V-Day WSU, featured students sitting in a large circle thinking through various domestic violence scenarios and discussing how they would handle the problem if it affected them, a friend or a family member. More than 25 people attended the event. Guest speakers also informed students about particular forms of domestic violence.
“Sometimes verbal abuse is silent and people don’t understand that,” said Laurie Smith, an assistant clinical faculty professor in the WSU Department of Psychology. “A lot of times abuse is a kind of withholding.”
Early in a relationship, the abuser will take the victim out to events that they enjoy, Smith said. However, as soon as the abuser figures out the activities their victim enjoys the most, they will begin withholding it, she said. One example is sharing information such as how a person’s day went, she said.
If the abuser knows that their victim enjoys the intimacy and closeness that comes with sharing, the abuser will withhold how they feel.
“In that way, abuse sometimes is completely invisible and silent,” Smith said. “It looks like two people sitting there and it doesn’t look like abuse. …The other person is frantic to try to connect and the person who is trying to feel powerful derives a real sense of power from ‘gosh you know you dressed up nice, you made a nice dinner. I’m going to pretend like I don’t notice.’”
This is a kind of pathological power based withholding, she said. Another guest speaker from the organization Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse (ATVP) commented on the definition of domestic violence.
“We use the definition that domestic violence is a pattern of behavior in which one partner is using power and control to control the other partner,” said ATVP legal advocate Melissa Johnson. “The legal definition in Washington … says that there needs to be physical harm, threats of or fear of physical harm, bodily injury or sexual assault between family or household members to qualify for domestic violence.”
The risk of injury becomes three times more likely when victims leave their abusers, she said. When the abuser is in danger of losing their power and control over a victim, that is when they are most dangerous.
Having social support and knowing available resources play a major role in finding safe harbor from abusive relationships, Johnson said. Resources to deal with domestic violence include the hotline for Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse, the Washington state hotline, and the national hotline, she said.
“Believe people when they tell you they are being abused,” Johnson said. “I think one of the most important things is to believe someone and to be willing to be a non-judgmental listener.”
Senior psychology major Amalia Veliz said students can change domestic violence by working through scenarios and gaining knowledge from this event and others like it.
“I’m hoping for more wisdom on how to handle the situations with my friends and my family … to give them more opportunity to more resources on what they can do,” she said.