Domestic violence awareness month brings focus to VARP

October is  Domestic Violence Awareness Month. And Rachel Maccabee, director of the Violence Awareness and Response Program, says this is a chance to center and support survivors and warn victims.

“Most months that are about awareness are a way to start conversations, have conversations,” said Maccabee. “And when we can talk about things, then we can understand what the roots of the things are. You need to get comfortable talking about things before we can dismantle or understand them.”

Domestic violence is often also referred to as Intimate Partner Violence. Maccabee said domestic violence can happen not only in intimate relationships but also in the household.

“Domestic violence affects every person who lives in a home and it can have long-term effects on how we develop and how we are healthy in our social and academic functioning,” said Maccabee. “If a child witnesses domestic violence, it can have strong long-term effects.”

According to the director, in the U.S., 20 people every minute are injured by their intimate partner. She said this equates to more than 10 million people annually nationwide.

VARP provides educational sessions on violence prevention. The center also supports victims of violence, providing various services, including advocacy.

“I’m here to be an advocate for both primary and secondary survivors of sexual violence,” said Maccabee. “Sometimes, people grow up seeing an unhealthy home, and that influences how they are now dating, the partners that they are choosing and maybe red flags that they are not able to see right away.”

Maccabee is trained as a confidential advocate and she helps people find resources. She said VARP is a safe space because students can discuss their issues without an immediate call for an investigation.

“It’s never too late to try to reach out and understand what happened to you and regain your power and your autonomy,” Maccabee said. “And we have a lot of one-on-one conversations here in our center.”

The director said students could support each other by being attentive and pointing out the things they feel worried about.

“It would be great if we could become familiar and comfortable enough to reach out to our friends and say, ‘I notice that your boyfriend is grabbing your phone and looking through it.’ I think college is a great time when we start to have these really deep, full conversations with one another,” said Maccabee. 

For additional help, students can refer to the VARP, located within the Women’s Center. People of any gender are welcome in both spaces.

Write to Amalia Sharaf at

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