On Wednesday, Eastern Michigan University’s Women’s Resource Center, in cooperation with the Safe House Center of Ann Arbor and First Step, presented the exhibit “True Life: My Experience with Domestic Violence.”
The exhibit featured the artwork of domestic violence victims, the children of victims and assailants. The work was mostly provided by the Safe House Center, but five pieces came from individuals on the EMU campus.
On Thursday in the Student Center, a discussion was hosted by Ellen Collier, coordinator the EMU Women’s Resource Center. Titled “True Life: Debriefing Session,” students who visited the exhibit could discuss their feelings and impressions of the art exhibit.
The exhibit was silent, but visitors heard a gong, a bell and whistle as they viewed the art. The whistle, for example, would sound every 90 seconds, because every 90 seconds a woman is murdered by a partner.
Special education major Abby Cowell discussed the pieces that were supplied by the perpetrators of domestic violence.
“I wanted to vomit,” Cowell said. “That was hard.”
A piece by the child of a victim was simply the words “I am sad” written over and over again.
Women’s and gender studies major Gail Hamann discussed another piece, a dorm room as it might have looked after a domestic violence incident.
“The dorm room scene was pretty powerful,” Hamann said. “All the facts made it real, that it really happens here.”
Collier stressed that domestic violence laws have not caught up with working definitions of domestic violence.
Michigan’s penal code seems to be broadly applicable, but there were some interesting provisions. Under section 750.81 of the Michigan Penal Code, physical harm is not necessary to convict someone of domestic assault.
Furthermore, victim and perpetrator need not be married – it merely needs to be expected that the individuals will engage in “affectionate involvement.”
Perhaps troubling, however, is the sixth provision under this section of the code: “This term does not include a casual relationship or an ordinary fraternization between two individuals in a business or social context.”
Collier said that a restraining order cannot be filed until the abuse becomes physical often times.
“The emotional abuse is worse than the physical abuse, because it lasts longer,” Collier said.
Collier cited the relationship between the two primary characters of the Twilight saga displays all 15 signs of an abusive relationship outlined by the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
The debriefing turned to examples of positive relationships.
The group of students settled positive relationships having the following characteristics: support, trust, understanding, respect, shared responsibility, commitment, consent, the ability to be an individual and each partner fostering personal growth in each other.
“[They] mentioned individuality and improving yourself,” Hamann said. “I’ve never heard that before.”
EMU senior Carla Nodi is working towards her psychology degree with a human sexuality minor. She worked the desk at the exhibit and said there was a steady flow of student traffic.
“I would say we had a pretty impressive turnout, and that’s important because it’s such a critical topic,” she said.
The issue of domestic violence needs to become a more discussed topic, Nodi said.
“It doesn’t get talked about until it’s too late,” she said. “It’s really important to know that the Women’s Resource Center has resources for this type of thing.”
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. On Oct. 1, the Women’s Resource Center held a screening of the documentary “Sin by Silence.” On Oct. 30, they will show “No Way Out But One,” at 7 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom.
The WRC is available to EMU students. They cover a broad range of issues, from sexual health, to domestic violence, sexual assault and poverty.
The Safe House Center of Ann Arbor hotline can be reached at 734-995-5444 and First Step may be reached at 734-722-6800 or toll free at 1-888-453-5900.
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