This is a guest blog post by Adrianne Shewell, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Student. She wrote this after attending exhibits and events as part of the “Violence Against Women: Changing Perspective”, which happened at the Eccles Health Sciences Library from March 4 – April 27, 2019.
According to a 2007 Study by the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, one in three Utah women experience sexual assault at some point in their lives. This includes physical, sexual or emotional abuse and threats. Let that sink in for a minute. Think of the women in your life: sisters, mothers, aunts, daughters, grandmothers, friends… It is scary to think that one or more of them have experienced or could experience some form of sexual assault. The numbers are staggering. More than 1 in 6 Utah Women experience rape and only 12% of the victims reported the assault or sought medical care (Mitchell & Peterson, 2007). It’s heartbreaking to think of those loved being yelled at, hit, told they aren’t good enough, belittled, kicked, raped, or even killed.
Throughout the months of March and April, a committee of individuals from the Eccles Health Sciences Library and College of Nursing planned events and exhibits in a series called “Violence Against Women: Changing Perspective.” This programming highlighted issues pertaining to sexual assault and violence and brought together many influential and amazing people to address these issues. Their goal was to facilitate changing the perspective of how men and women react to and process violence.
The first event I attended was the Clothesline Project. T-shirts designed locally by students, staff, and faculty are hung on clothesline bearing witness to violence happening against women. I read about it before walking into the library and thought about how it might affect me, but I had no idea to what extent those words and images would be burned into my head. The stories printed on those shirts brought to life the reality and magnitude of domestic violence. As I read all the many words like “I was 8”, or “I felt so dirty”, or “it wasn’t fair she had to leave this earth”, I realized that verbalizing and talking about personal experiences is how perspectives are going to change. If these stories are kept hidden and covered up, then change will never occur. These violent and despicable things are happening every day, to people loved and cared about. By giving women a platform to voice their traumatic experiences then hopefully changes can be made.
Another impactful event was Dr. Sanchez-Vives’ presentation on how virtual reality treats domestic violence offenders. The experience her and her lab created places them in the shoes of the victim and potentially allows them to empathize with the fear and trauma that they cause the victims. The simulation had a perpetrator yelling, belittling, and physically assaulting the individual. It was incredibly interesting to hear the reactions to those who experienced the simulation. Their interviews after the simulation showed a glimmer of hope when they began to understand the emotional and physical wreckage that can be caused by this type of violence.
The last program I attended was “Ask the Experts Panel”. The experts included Julie Valentine, Assistant Professor at BYU; Devon Musson Rose, Chief Domestic Violence Services Officer; YWCA Utah, Devon Cantwell, PhD Student in Political Science; and Julie Ann Melini, Clinical Director of the Wasatch Forensic Nurses Program. Katie Ward, Associate Professor at the U’s College of Nursing, moderated the panel. The wealth of knowledge and experience that exuded from these bright and charismatic individuals proved that there is hope for change. We have women who are leaders and who are willing to do what it takes to make a difference. They want women to be safe, to have their voices heard, and to avoid fear of retaliation or criticism when they decide to come forward and take a stand against domestic violence.
To learn more about the series of events and to get domestic and sexual violence resources on campus, locally, or nationally, visit their website: https://library.med.utah.edu/blog/eccles/2019/03/01/violence-against-women-changing-perspective/.
Mitchell, C., & Peterson, B. (2007). Rape in Utah 2007. Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.