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Breaking the Silence: How Eastern is Shifting the Narrative on Domestic Violence

Megan Hayes | News Editor


Poster making event hosted by 'Her Campus' and F.E.M.A.L.E.S. for the LeLe Week Rally. / Emily Conte, Campus Lantern, 2024

Often, when a victim of intimate partner violence or interpersonal violence speaks on their experiences, they are met with the blatant question of "why didn't you speak up sooner?" For those who have been fortunate to have never experienced domestic violence, it is quite hard to conceptualize why someone wouldn't want to reach for help in such a situation. However, in such a multifaceted and complex issue, there is often a completely different side to the situation - often the victims feel like they cannot ask for help. The roots of domestic violence run deep, and the first priority is to not point fingers at the victims for their silence. This is a much larger issue, and as a community we must be aware of how to break the stigma of domestic violence without furthering the damage.


When one goes through a significant traumatic event that can fit under the umbrella term of 'domestic violence', there can be a range of emotions and responses felt. What can start as a normal, healthy relationship can sometimes escalate to physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological abuse that negatively effects another person. Although most victims of domestic are commonly in a romantic relationship with the perpetrator, it can also affect children who live in the household or are in social circles with those committing the violence. Domestic violence can affect anyone regardless of their gender, race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, beliefs or socioeconomic class. What may start out as a "once or twice" scenario can quickly escalate in frequency or severity to something that can cause irreparable damage, physically or emotionally - which can sometimes lead to death.


Domestic violence can reveal itself in many different ways, and most commonly this will not be visible to those outside of the relationship. Some signs of domestic abuse are embarrassing someone in front of friends or family, cutting one's access to a support system off, making one question their worth outside of the relationship, use of intimidation to achieve a goal, pressure one into situations they are not comfortable with, or doing harmful things to "teach a lesson". These smaller issues may escalate to larger forms of abuse like stalking, sexual abuse, and physical and sexual assault. There is an imbalance of power and control in an abusive relationship, which is why these instances of abuse continue to happen in a cycle. Many things can prevent a victim from speaking up against their abuser like fear of being judged or accused of lying, fear of retaliation from the abuser which may ruin their reputation, or fear that one speaking up can cause direct physical harm or an attack from the abuser. Domestic violence often thrives in silence, which is why those on the outside must know the correct steps to take to tackle this issue.


When we want to break a stigma - a certain way a stereotype makes us feel about a circumstance, quality, or person - we must look at both the cause and effect of the situation to determine the right course of action (Oxford Languages). There are three types of stigmas that could affect someone - public, systemic, and self - appropriately rooted from the public (through devaluation by others), systemic roots (which result in reduced access to care), and self (which leads to internalization of negative stereotypes). In the case of domestic/interpersonal violence, the roots of the stigma could be sourced to all three categories depending on the situation. Stigmas keep those at risk trapped in a particular situation due to the effect that stereotypes have on the resources around them (public, systemic resources). This can effect one's ability to receive housing, healthcare, respect/ability to be taken seriously, mental health care, assistance, and more. Take, for instance, someone in an abusive relationship - they may be unable to get proper healthcare due to those around them being uneducated about the signs of domestic violence, like their partner acting a certain way to prevent the patient from being alone with the doctors.


Here at Eastern, domestic violence and hands that hurt will not have a place on campus. Some of the best ways to break stigmas, especially in the case of issues like domestic violence are to know the facts, spread awareness, and be aware of attitudes and behavior used when talking about the subject. 


Eastern works to continually provide resources for those that may be struggling alone with situations like domestic abuse, one of the most notable resources being the SAIV-RT Team. This organization, called Eastern’s Sexual Assault & Interpersonal Violence Response Team is committed to “providing a trauma informed-response, advocacy, prevention, intervention, and support to restore safety of students who experience interpersonal violence” (SAIV-RT Section on Eastern’s website, easternct.edu). This program  provides assistance, medical help, counseling, advocacy, and confidential help, and is available to all students at Eastern through the collaboration of Title IX, the Women’s Center, Health Services, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), University Police, and the Office of Equity and Diversity.

To aid in this cause, organizations like the Women's Center of the Arthur L. Johnson Unity Wing, F.E.M.A.L.E.S. (Females Excelling, Maturing to Achieve Leadership, Excellence and Success), and other outside organizations have come together to design a project for domestic violence awareness. This project is called Lele Week, honoring a former student of ECSU named Alyssiah "LeLe" Wiley, who was taken from the world too soon in an act of domestic violence. In 2013, 20-year-old Alyssiah left campus with her boyfriend, 30-year-old Jermaine Richards. Alyssiah's partial remains were found in a wooded area in Trumbull around a month after her disappearance from Eastern.


The Eastern community was deeply shaken by this horrific event, and vowed for change. F.E.M.A.L.E.S., which Wiley was a part of during her time at Eastern, designed a week of events aimed at preventing and spreading awareness for domestic violence, while at the same time making a beautiful and moving way to honor the life of Alyssiah Wiley, a bright light taken too soon. As of April 2024, this is the 9th annual "Lele Week" that Eastern has held. This year, the events included a wide variety of different on-campus activities. Two weeks prior to LeLe Week, a tabling event was held along with a corn-hole tournament in the ECSU Sports Center. Awareness tables were open to all students passing by in the Student Center, who were asked to participate in small tasks like picking out lyrics from a song or rewording statements that could have hinted to domestic violence. In the Sports Center, students and visitors could register to play compete in the corn-hole tournament and see the resource tables that could help with those in crisis. Many events were held between the tabling events and LeLe Week for poster making, where students were able to make their own domestic violence awareness posters for Alyssiah's Rally across campus, planned for Wednesday, April 17th. On Monday, April 15th, Eastern's rock on the north end of campus was painted with "LELE PROJECT 2024" as well as handprints in purple, which are the color of domestic violence awareness. On Tuesday, April 16th, ECSU's Women's Center held their "Take Back the Night" Event, which aims to end all forms of sexual assault and abuse. On Wednesday, April 17th, the LELE Project Rally took place, where students marched across campus with their posters. Corinna Martin, Alyssiah Wiley's mom, was in attendance. On Thursday, April 18th, an Open Talk session was held by the Pride Center for victims and allies to share their stories about domestic violence and abuse. Lastly, on Friday, April 19th, there was a T-shirt fundraiser on Webb Lawn for Corinna Martin's project called M.O.V. E. (Mothers of Victims Equality), as well as a candlelight vigil for Alyssiah. Attendees were able to light a candle for those that they know who have been victims of domestic or interpersonal violence.


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