The Violence Awareness Response Program, as part of Domestic Violence Awareness month, hosted their second Conversation Circle of the semester Tuesday focusing on topics within domestic violence.
Conversations Circles are a way for students to have a safe space to have conversations about difficult topics such as domestic violence, sexual assault, consent, bystander intervention, etc.
Hunter Beckstrom, the Graduate Assistant for VARP said, “Being able to provide that space where people feel comfortable talking about difficult conversations, while also providing different services and support in of itself is very important.”
He continued, “Maybe we’re talking about sexual assault or domestic violence, people who come to these might be interested because they might need support or services or maybe they know someone who experienced that so just attending those and being aware of different services and allies on campus and who they see as potential supports and everything is important as well.”
Students were introduced to the power and control wheel and the cycle of violence. Students were able to share what jumped out at them as one student claimed she was surprised that some abusers use their children against the victim as some tell the children negative or untrue things about the other partner.
Other students questioned the term “crazymaking”, as one student explained that it was a tactic used by abusers to minimize the victim’s feelings to make it seem like they’re at fault or are the “crazy” one.
To apply what students have learned, as an example, students were shown a TED Talk about Leslie Morgan Steiner, who retold her story as a domestic violence survivor as the man she loved and claimed to love her held a gun to her head numerous times.
Students, after the video, discussed things from the power and control wheel and cycle of violence and how it applied to her story. They discussed the question “why does she stay?” and how it only promotes and furthers victim blaming.
They discussed how many victims don’t leave simply because they have no idea they’re being abused. In the video, Steiner explained, she had no idea she was a victim but instead saw herself as a “strong woman in love with a troubled man who was the only one who could help him face his demons.”
One student explained this was common and used the analogy, “Put a frog in a pot of boiling water and they’ll jump out, put them in a pot of normal water and slowly heat it up and they’ll never notice.”
They addressed how domestic violence can happen to everybody and that even after a victim leaves they can still be stuck in a dangerous situation. Beckstrom shared a statistic that 70% of homicide related to domestic violence occur after the victim tries to leave.
In the TED Talk, Steiner talked about how “abuse thrives in silence”. Many students agreed as bringing awareness and normalizing conversations about domestic violence is important when moving forward in addressing the issue.
Beckstrom said, “I think this one on domestic violence is particularly important because the general idea of domestic violence is so hush hush.”
He continued, “Normalizing those aspects and making sure that those conversations are being had so they’re not just swept under the rug, making it normal to talk about those things, is something we all need to do.”
The group also discussed domestic violence in media such as the Rhianna and Chris Brown domestic violence case, and how many people took to twitter and made memes and joked about the situation with many people tweeting, “Chris Brown so fine, he can beat me as much as he’d like.” Or in the Ray Rice domestic violence case, as many people dressed as Ray Rice carrying a beaten up doll as a Halloween costume.
They also addressed domestic violence in the LGBT community as they face issues of getting certain services, the issue of “misarrest”, and homicides within the trans community.
To end the conversation the group discussed what they can do moving forward such as normalizing the conversation surrounding domestic violence, addressing jokes around domestic violence, getting familiar with healthy boundaries, reaching out to support systems and resources, stop victim blaming, talk about both sides of domestic violence, etc.
The next conversation circle is on Nov. 26. They are open for all to attend.
Beckstrom said, “In our next Conversation Circle, our plan is to focus on a type of lighter idea, and also how we can support ourselves, such as through meditation or conscientious thinking. It’s a little up in the air but is going to be based on not such an intense topic or self-care in general, to hopefully bring a nice end to the semester.”
Header photo: A group of students during the “Conversation Circles: Domestic Violence” discussion Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 in Mankato, Minn. (Jack Linell/MSU Reporter)