U.Va. Women's Center Marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October

October 4, 2010 —  The University of Virginia Women's Center, in collaboration with other departments, student organizations and community agencies, is sponsoring several events to bring recognition to the issue of domestic violence, including training in how to support survivors and a screening of the documentary, "Telling Amy's Story."

From Oct. 18 through 22, look for red flags and posters on Grounds that display information and statistics about intimate partner violence. The Red Flag Campaign aims to increase awareness about abusive relationships, compared to healthy relationships, by pointing out "red flags" that others might observe in the relationships of friends or family members.

Five years ago, the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance submitted a proposal to the Verizon Foundation to forge a multi-year partnership for the statewide Red Flag Campaign. U.Va. was one of the first campuses to pilot the award-winning project.

The documentary film, "Telling Amy's Story," to be screened at the Women's Center on Oct. 18 at 4 p.m., chronicles the events leading up to the death of a woman named Amy, whose husband shot her in 2001. After years of abuse, Amy had decided to leave her husband, Vincent. While her parents and two young boys waited outside in the car, she went back into her house to retrieve some belongings, and Vincent shot and killed her. The victim's parents and co-workers, law enforcement officers and court personnel share their perspectives on what happened to Amy and what, if anything, could have been done to prevent her murder.

In a similar vein, Andrea Cooper will talk about "Kristen's Story" on Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. in the Chemistry Auditorium. In 1995, Kristen Cooper, a 20-year-old college student, was raped by someone she knew. Her subsequent trauma and depression led her to commit suicide. Since then, her mother, Andrea, has made it her life's work to travel across the U.S. and educate college students about the devastating consequences of rape.

"I am sharing this because I hope, by telling Kristen's story, other lives will be saved, and other young women will not be victims of acquaintance rape," Cooper said, "and that those suffering from depression, for any reason, will get help."

The documentary will also air on public television stations statewide on Oct. 7.

U.Va. students can take part in another event, the Great Charlottesville Scavenger Hunt, on Oct. 29 at 2 p.m., starting at the Women's Center. Teams of students follow clues that take them around Charlottesville to visit agencies, such as the Shelter for Help in Emergency, that offer helpful services for women who have been abused or assaulted.

"A fabulous prize awaits the team that figures out the clues and gets to all the destinations in the shortest amount of time," said Claire Kaplan, director of Sexual and Domestic Violence Services at the Women’s Center. Registration fee: $10 for a team of any size. 

The Women's Center will hold a basic self-defense course for women on Tuesdays from Oct. 12 to Nov. 16, from 6 to 9 p.m. each day. Pre-registration is required for this course, created by the National Rape Aggression Defense Program.

The RAD program is an empowerment-based course, designed to counter the stereotype that women are defenseless against an attacker. The course teaches women awareness of their physical strengths and abilities to use their bodies as personal weapons. RAD emphasizes a variety of options in practical risk-reduction and basic self-defense, recognizing that every situation is different and that no one choice is right for all women.

There is a $25 fee, but need-based discounts are available. 

Training to become part of the Survivor Support Network will be offered on Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. in Newcomb Hall, room 389. Men and women can become allies to survivors of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking and child sexual abuse by undergoing training as a member of U.Va.'s Survivor Support Network, sponsored by the Women's Center. Participants will develop effective strategies to support students and colleagues, learn about local resources and become part of an on-Grounds network that is designed to make visible the dedicated support for survivors that exists at the University.

A second training session will be held Nov. 22 at 1 p.m.

To register for either the RAD course or for the Support Survivor Network training, contact Lisa Speidel at las7p@virginia.edu or 434-982-2910.

— By Anne Bromley