Students and other attendees gathered in the CEMC Auditorium on Monday, Jan. 31 as the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and Sigma Gamma Rho sorority hosted their Domestic Violence Awareness Program.
All were welcomed to the event by seniors Samantha Jones, who serves as President of the Xi chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho, and Kerry Smith, who serves as President of the Kappa Chi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha. Jones and Smith both said that they had great ambitions for the program.
“We did a program dedicated to domestic violence because we think that people aren’t really aware of the issues,” Jones said. “They kind of slide different actions under the rug, and they don’t really know how it starts.”
Smith agreed that he felt the same as he reflected on their reasoning for coming up with such a program for students.
“We needed to have something educational so that students will have something to know about and have certain topics to talk about,” Smith said. “We came up with domestic violence. We felt that was the most likely thing to happen on college campuses.”
Junior Miranda Sligh, who serves as Vice President of Sigma Gamma Rho presented the purpose of the program which was “to educate and spread knowledge about the acts of domestic violence among friends, family, and the community.”
A video clip from the Tyler Perry movie “Madea’s Family Reunion” was presented, giving the audience an idea of what domestic violence generally looks like.
“I think the movie choice was very good because it let the crowd know the seriousness of the violence,” Smith said.
A poem entitled “Daddy’s Little Girl” was read by sophomore Jasmine Green, describing a father and daughter relationship that goes from sweet and joyous to sour and tragic over the years.
Finally, the keynote speaker, Tracey Williamson, was introduced, and she shared several stories and incidents of abuse, giving listeners an idea of how serious the issue is in the community as well as the rest of the world. Williamson, who educates the Pee Dee region of South Carolina on the prevention and reduction of sexual assault and dating violence, has been surrounded by domestic violence and sexual assault cases for several years. She shared statistics and facts about domestic violence.
“One in five college females will experience some form of dating violence,” Williamson said. “68 percent of young women raped knew their rapist as a former or current boyfriend, classmate or acquaintance.”
Williamson shared her ideas of why domestic violence may occur, how it begins, and where it could ultimately end.
“The most common signs of domestic violence in relationships are quick involvement, isolating (their) partner from friends and family, mood swings, blaming others for his or her problems, controlling behavior, and, of course, a history of abusive relationships,” Williamson said.
Williamson said that she works every day to inform people about domestic violence in hopes that it will change the way that people get into and maintain relationships.
“I sincerely hope that participants begin to evaluate the relationships they are in or hope to be in,” Williamson said. “Healthy relationships benefit both parties involved equally.”
Jones had a similar outlook about what she wanted the audience to take from the program.
“We hope that the attendees gained knowledge about the situation,” Jones said. “We hope that they actually want to do better; not just listen to it, but actually take what they have learned and apply it to their lives and educate others.”
After the program, students were provided with information on where to turn if they were ever in an abusive situation.
“If someone is in an abusive relationship, they should evaluate, elevate and exit,” Williamson said. “Look to see if it’s healthy, love yourself and leave the abuse. The Pee Dee Coalition offers excellent services to victims of abuse, and the toll-free number is 1-800-273-1820, or they can visit loveisrespect.org.”