October is a time that holds many meanings, one of them being Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This month is dedicated to education about how domestic violence happens, the signs that it may be occurring, the resources available to help, and most importantly the victims. Although domestic violence is not a typical topic of discussion, that does not mean it is not happening or affecting the community and people around you, even here at Penn State.
The Gender Equity Center in State College is opening up the dialogue for students to learn about domestic violence in their community, including on a college campus.
“I think it is really important that people understand that domestic and relationship violence is more than physical abuse,” says Jennifer Pencek, programming coordinator at the Gender Equity Center. “In terms of college students, people just assume that it is something you have to navigate when you are older. We have students that come to us to help deal with their unhealthy relationships.”
Throughout the entire year, the Equity Center has two student groups that address issues such as domestic violence, among others, called Men Against Violence and Peers Helping Reaffirm Educate and Empower (PHREE). These groups become support for victims, as people find that becoming involved with others who may have experienced similar situations, is therapeutic. The groups are open to all who want to join, and new members are encouraged.
A common misconception of domestic violence, according to Pencek, is that college students believe it will not directly affect them in their four years at Penn State, but it can and it does.
Pencek also encourages that those who witness or suspect domestic violence say something instead of staying quiet.
“Friends should feel comfortable speaking up,” says Pencek. “Let the person know you’re concerned and why you are concerned and the resources you know of.”
Specifically in October, the Center plans specific events around awareness of domestic violence. Although some of the events have already passed, there are still more upcoming events that the entire community is encouraged to participate in.
Taylor Armstrong, from the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, will be speaking on her personal experience with domestic violence on Monday Oct. 15 in Heritage Hall at 8 p.m.
From Oct. 15 to 19 at Webster’s Bookstore in State College, they will continue their “Empty Place at the Table” exhibit, which honors those who have died due to domestic violence.
“Light the Night” on Old Main Lawn will take place on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m., where everyone is invited to honor survivors through a visual display sponsored by both the Gender Equity Center and Centre Safe.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, you are encouraged to contact the Gender Equity Center. Counseling and resources are free to students and it is all confidential.