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A panel of experts spoke at a University of Delaware teach-in and
listening session, which was held on Tuesday, Oct. 19, after a recent
incident of gender-based violence that deeply affected the UD community.
VIDEO: Watch the full event
violence is a pervasive national problem that can be considered a public
health crisis, but it can be curtailed if individuals and communities
work together to educate themselves, raise awareness, develop effective
prevention policies and take appropriate action.
That was the message delivered by a panel of experts at a University
of Delaware teach-in and listening session, held Tuesday, Oct. 19, after
a recent incident of gender-based violence that deeply affected the UD
The event, which was announced last week in President Dennis Assanis’ letter
to the University community about finding a path forward in addressing
this issue, was designed to educate and hear the concerns and
experiences of those attending. Hosts were Jennifer Naccarelli and
Angela Hattery, both faculty members in the Department of Women and Gender Studies and co-directors of the department’s Center for the Study and Prevention of Gender-Based Violence.
“This did not just happen; gender-based violence can be prevented,”
Naccarelli said in introducing the program, speaking of the Oct. 8
incident in which a female student was attacked in an off-campus
apartment. The alleged assailant, also a UD student, has been arrested
and separated from the University and is barred from campus.
Naccarelli and Hattery called the attack “horrendous” but said it was
unfortunately not unusual, as gender-based and intimate-partner
violence is all too common in communities and on campuses across the
country. As a society, they said, “we need to stop glorifying
gender-based violence and excusing the behavior of perpetrators.”
Prevention must take place at multiple levels, they said, as we all
examine relationships and friendships and learn more about what can be
done to ensure everyone’s safety.
Hattery pointed out that abuse isn’t only physical but can include
other controlling actions that can impact a victim long after physical
injuries have healed. She discussed the term “coercive control,” a form
of domestic abuse or intimate partner violence that a perpetrator uses
to gain control by eroding a person’s autonomy and self-esteem through
such actions as intimidation and threats.
Panelist Sue Ryan, executive director of the Delaware Coalition
Against Domestic Violence, called intimate partner violence a public
health crisis. She cited statistics that one in five women and one in
seven men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate
partner, with young women ages 16-24 experiencing nearly triple the rate
of such violence as the national average. In Delaware, she said, the
number of reported criminal incidents of domestic violence last year was
“This is not an individual problem or a relationship problem,” Ryan
said. “It’s a community problem [and] we must rally resources of the
University, the county and the state” to combat it.
Other panelists, many of them faculty members in women and gender
studies who conduct research on the subject, spoke about a variety of
aspects of gender-based violence, including the role played by society
in the different expectations it assigns to boys and girls and the
disproportionate impact of such violence on the Black, Indigenous and
People of Color (BIPOC) communities.
Emerald Christopher-Byrd, assistant professor of women and gender
studies, said there are many reasons for this greater impact, including
family loyalty, lack of resources and distrust of law enforcement, and
she also noted the media’s tendency to focus their coverage on incidents
involving white victims while often ignoring the many (BIPOC) women
facing the same experiences.
“Those who are silent must have a voice,” Christopher-Byrd said.
As a group, the panelists praised and thanked the UD students whose
protests immediately after the Oct. 8 incident called on the University
to increase awareness of the issue of gender-based violence and ensure a
“Your raised voices got us here today,” said Marie Laberge, associate
professor of women and gender studies, who advocated a public-health
approach to the issue, identifying risk and designing and then assessing
programs to prevent violence. “We need to do more, and we can. Because
gender-based violence is preventable.”
The panel was followed by numerous listening sessions in which
students were encouraged to share their thoughts, experiences and ideas
for improving safety. Topics included fraternity and sorority leadership
and learning, UD’s mandatory educational programs, Office of Student
Conduct policies and processes, Office of Equity and Inclusion sexual
misconduct policies, violence among and engagement with BIPOC, how
gender-based violence affects the LGBTQ community, survivor space,
masculinity on campus and campus crime responses and prevention.
“Although we’re working hard to prevent it, it does happen,” said
panelist Angela Seguin, Student Wellness and Health Promotion’s
assistant director of victim advocacy. “When violence happens, it is
never the victim’s fault.”
Numerous resources exist on campus to help victims, she said, listing
three confidential resources as possible starting points for those
seeking information and support:
Next up: Student Life and SOS are sponsoring a new monthly series of
restorative circle conversations. The first, addressing intimate partner
violence at UD, will be held at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 26, in Room 101
of the Wellbeing Center at Warner.
The Center for the Study and Prevention of Gender-Based Violence is
an interdisciplinary, feminist, intersectional collaborative that
integrates scholarship with community activism.
It focuses on study, prevention and support for survivors of domestic
violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, human
trafficking and other forms of gender-based violence.
The center is housed in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department
of Women and Gender Studies, which offers an academic concentration and a
minor in domestic violence prevention and services. The program
combines coursework with practical experience and trains students to
become advocates for domestic violence survivors.
Article by Ann Manser; photo by Evan Krape
Published Oct. 20, 2021
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