Poetry slam brings light to domestic awareness month


Adelia Lawrenz

An Impressive Turn-out: The audience patiently waits for the event to begin in the Underground of the Memorial Union. Event host, Dennis Etzel later expressed how happy he was about the large number of people who showed up to participate and observe.

As we at Washburn are observing October as the Domestic Awareness Month, it is so important that we educate ourselves on the many forms that domestic violence can take, as well as the impact it can have on survivors. One such opportunity was the Poetry Speak-Out event on Tuesday, Oct 19, 2021, a time for poets to sign up for open-mic time to read their work about domestic violence.

At 1:30 p.m. in the Memorial Union Underground, the open-mic was set to begin and the host, Dennis Etzel, a senior lecturer in the English department at Washburn, did a short introductory speech to give the audience context. In his introduction, he admitted to his personal experience living through domestic violence and the impact of poetry on his life.

“Poetry books saved my life,” Etzel said. “This issue impacts everyone: survivors or the people you know who’ve survived. It’s a chance to share one’s voice about that, and to feel united, because you’re not alone.”

The poets each shared their breathtaking pieces in front of the audience, surrounded by a safe and supportive space. Representatives from the Young Women Christian Association, YWCA, and Student Counseling were present in order to provide support for everyone in attendance.

Afterwards, attendees were encouraged to take from the refreshment station providing drinks and pizza, as well as look over the informational handouts provided, with resources for those experiencing domestic violence, recovering from an experience, or just anyone who had an interest. A particular resource that stood out was a book of poems from Washburn students and the Topeka community that were related to domestic violence and sexual assault.

Etzel’s co host, Dr. Jericho Hockett, director of university assessment and associate professor in the psychology department, shared that she and Etzel plan this event each year, in the October for domestic violence awareness month, and in the spring is a very similar event for sexual assault awareness month. Their passion for domestic violence awareness may come from different places – Hockett’s can be more of an analytical approach as she is a psychologist focused on examining social power – but it is still very evident in the ways they speak at these events and their willingness to organize and host them.

“So many people have this idea of domestic violence as being something that doesn’t affect them,” Hockett said. “But it’s not just this one big thing that’s obvious and in your face and necessarily has a big impact. It’s all these little currents, like the lines of a poem.”

Edited by Alyssa Storm
Edited by Ellie Walker