Panel discussion raises awareness about relationship violence

A Relationship Violence Awareness Panel Discussion was in Mabee Library Oct. 30. It was associated with the national relationship violence awareness month, which is October.

“Having discussion about these difficult topics can facilitate connections,” said Jericho Hockett, a research assistant professor of social psychology.

The event was hosted by Hockett and the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education program.

Topics of the panel discussion included cultural influences, how intimate violence experiences affect career trajectories, bystander observations and opportunities for empowerment in creative work, research and other ways of voicing the panelists’ personal stories.

Hockett invited the three panelists to the discussion. They have all done research and participated in the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Program.

They shared their personal stories about sexual assault and relationship violence at the event.

“It’s not always easy to share stories related to these topics,” said Hockett. “When we share our story, it can enlighten us.”

Panelists talked about cultural interpretation and social response about sexual assault. The audience heard a range of interpretations and reactions that people felt when they had these experiences.

Hockett shared an experience about a book release party. A 70-year-old woman came to her after hearing sexual assault stories. The woman thought the event was amazing that people talk about this topic now. It was taboo for her when she was a young woman, and she hasn’t talk about it for 60 years.

“Hearing other people share their stories had made her recognize that she’s not alone,” said Hockett. “She has these connections that transcends age, that transcends race and economic status.”

The audience at the panel discussion also shared their feelings after hearing the panelists’ stories.

“I’m constantly telling that we need to believe the survivors,” said Dennis Etzel, junior English major. “I don’t need to know details that I know it’s happened.”

These stories happened with people in real life. It was an opportunity to learn about how to respect the survivors.

At the same time, the audience also thought about themselves. They shared their opinion about how they would react if they face sexual assault or relationship violence. They also brought out some possible solutions to those situations.

“Hearing these kinds of stories, I need to start speaking out more that I can’t accept this,” said Etzel. “Before, I knew it was happening and I just didn’t really say anything to people that I am a man who doesn’t allow this to happen.”

In the end, panelists offered the recommendations in regard to when, where, how and why people should share their stories.

“It helps people to understand that they are not alone and gives them the important courage or power to speak out for themselves,” said Ana Lima, one of the panelists from the psychology department. “By throwing it [sexual assault experience] out there, you are making it smaller.”

The Relationship Violence Awareness Panel Discussion highlighted the importance of sharing people’s stories about sexual assault and relationship violence. For more information, reach out to Hockett via email at [email protected].