Spring semester sees return of ‘Brave Hearts’

School is back for the spring semester, and with it comes the return of the ‘Brave Hearts’ discussion series, hosted by the Women’s Center. The discussions are centered around answering tough or taboo topics such as sexual violence, racism and managing mental health.

The conversation topic this week is power dynamics in relationships, and how it correlates to intimate partner violence. Contrary to previous meetings, this one will serve as less of an informal, heart-to-heart discussion and more of an educational session, enlightening students on various forms power dynamics can take, and their toxic effects.

Headlining the event is MK Thao, Minnesota State graduate student, as well as graduate assistant for the Women’s Center on campus, the organization hosting the entire event.

According to Thao, power control in relationships is all about one individual taking all the power away from the other as a way to control them. This could be emotionally, financially, mentally, or even sexually.

“Let’s say that there’s this man and woman who are in a relationship and the man is the breadwinner. He’s the only one working and he does it on purpose. He won’t allow the woman to work. Now that the woman is stuck in this abusive relationship, she can’t leave either because he controlled all the finances,” Thao said.

Thao continued to speak on how power control can be detrimental to a relationship. Many victims feel trapped; escaping isn’t an option, and even if they managed to do it, they would have nothing.

“[If] she leaves, where’s she gonna go? She doesn’t have the money for a hotel. She’s been isolated from friends and family, she can’t contact them. So she has no choice but to stay. She doesn’t have any way to provide for herself, and it gets worse,” Thao said.

The dynamic isn’t strictly a marital thing, either. It can happen between a parent and a child, two children, two coworkers, or anyone who has already had a pre-established relationship with the other.

The dynamic also doesn’t have to stem from money issues. It could assert control through emotional abuse, such as insulting and gaslighting. It could assert control by cutting off all communication with the other’s loved ones. The problem has many faces, so it’s a hard one to nip in the bud and prevent altogether.

“That’s kind of like the concept of the power control. It’s to highlight some ways that people wouldn’t really see as abused. Money, isolation from friends and family. Even things like taunting or degrading you is a form of abuse,” Thao said.

The “Brave Hearts” discussions have been happening in one way or another for years on MSU’s campus. Originally called “Conversation Circle,” the name was changed to what it is now last year, in an effort to make attendees feel more welcomed and less obligated to talk, or contribute.

This is the first school year where both the fall and the spring semester have hosted the talks. The overwhelmingly positive responses and increase in campus involvement both played major parts in the event’s increasing regularity, according to Thao.

“I feel like the reason why we’ve been able to do a full school year here is the positive review, a lot of involvement from staff. We’ve been able to keep things respectful and overall a safe environment for students to feel like they could come up with their own opinions and thoughts without judgment,” Thao said.

Although each of the discussions have a set topic they aim to cover, students can walk in and speak on anything they want to get off their chest.

“If students do come home, feel free to come with [your] own topic. Our topics that we have listed are just to kind of give students something to go off on. But if they suddenly feel strongly about something, come on in and throw it out there. We’ll talk about it,” Thao said.

“Brave Hearts” discussions return again today, in CSU 218, from 11 a.m. to noon, and will return every other Thursday for the rest of the semester.

Header Photo: MK Thao, pictured above, is the Graduate Assistant at the Women’s Center on campus. She has been one of the leading figures behind the ‘Brave Hearts’ discussions for over a year. (File Photo)

Write to Joey Erickson at joseph.erickson.2@mnsu.edu

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