In honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, CARE to Stop Violence invited University of Maryland students, faculty and staff on Oct. 28 to participate in an open panel discussion on domestic and sexual violence, followed by a Survivor Garden ceremony at the University Health Center.

In addition to educating students on domestic and sexual violence, panelists shared the available resources on and around campus, which help survivors and individuals seeking more information. 

Panelist Fatima Burns, a Licensed Certified Social Worker – Clinical (LCSW-C) and Assistant Director of CARE, said she believes that CARE is a good, first-stop resource when survivors and other individuals are unsure of whether or not they want to report an assault. 

CARE is a confidential on-campus resource available for survivors or other individuals interested in receiving help or getting more information about domestic and sexual violence. 

“If people are unsure of their options, it is probably best to begin with CARE because we can help provide a general idea of what to expect when reaching out to other entities to report,” Burns said. “CARE doesn’t require anyone to report or provide more information than they are uncomfortable providing.”

She stressed the importance of educating students about domestic and sexual violence.

“Students should be educated about these issues to learn the resources available to them,” Burns said. ”People are often unaware that they have experienced violence. Also, friends and others who care about them who may want to help may not understand or know how to best help.”

Sheila Ziglari, a 21-year-old a kinesiology major, said she found the discussion on sexual violence among adolescents the most interesting. 

“The panelists talked about how it’s problematic that younger kids aren’t being taught enough about sexuality and sexual health and therefore, won’t be taught about sexual violence either,” Ziglari said.

She also said that she found the discussion on parents educating their children on domestic and sexual violence insightful.

“The discussion about how parents should [educate] their children was interesting because the panelists said that most of their behavior is learned from their parents,” Ziglari said.

Lydia Verkouteren, a 21-year-old psychology major, said was comforted by the acceptance of reporting sexual abuse any time after the violence.

“Even if it’s been years or even decades, you can still try to get justice and have the ability to talk about what had happened to you and get help and advice about it,” Verkouteren said. “This is so important because it shows that there are people who want to talk to you because they care and want the best for you.”

Panelist Josh Bronson, Assistant Director of the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct  and Special (Title IX) Investigator at the University of Maryland, said he understands the intimidation when confronting officers in uniform about a sensitive issue. 

“They may appear intimidating, but UMPD is going through intensive domestic violence training, sexual assault training, stalking and harassment training in order to better approach and serve survivors,” Bronson said.

Panelist Sgt. Rosanne Hoaas, Public Information Officer of the University of Maryland Police Department, stressed UMPD’s commitment to helping survivors.

“We’ve also been training with the health center and other local resources like the Prince George’s Sex Assault Center and we continue to update our training to work with the office of CRSM,” Hoaas said.

Hoaas explained how UMPD is breaking barriers to help survivors seeking authoritative help feel comfortable.

“Officers can go where the survivors are most comfortable whether that’s their room, a friend’s room, or a neutral space,” Hoaas said. “The University Health Center has space that they can make available to meet with officers, and we always encourage anyone reporting to work with an advocate.”

“If survivors and other individuals seeking help want to get to that level of taking action, CARE is more than willing to work with CRSM and UMPD to meet those needs,” Taylor said.

The event closed with the Survivor Garden ceremony. Every fall each attending student, faculty and staff  plants a bulb on campus symbolizing the budding of breaking the silence.

Due to the weather, the bulb was replaced with mason jars containing small purple light bulbs — the color that represents domestic and sexual violence awareness.

The CARE office is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — no appointment is needed.

Featured Photo Credit: April 3, 2011- The first Slut Walk protest in Toronto. (Courstesy Wikimedia Commons)

Jennifer Pham is a junior multiplatform journalism major and may be reached at jenaipham@gmail.com

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