This year’s Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Activities featured workshops, a poster-making session, speaker event and Walk With Me Silent Procession, as well as three panel discussions and a symposium.
Sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center, the events featured speakers from BMCC and other colleges.
They also provided experts from the NYC Mayor’s Office, the Center for Family Representation, the NYC Human Resources Administration, The Feminist Press at CUNY, Women for Afghan Women and other organizations, and stretched from Friday, October 10 through Thursday, October 28.
“It’s always about power and control.”
The series of domestic violence awareness events was kicked off with a 90-minute workshop led by Women’s Resource Center Director Deborah Parker, and offered in seven different time slots, she said, “so we could make it accessible to as many students, staff and faculty as possible.”
The workshop explained what groups are covered under the laws regarding domestic violence.
“There are five subgroups: elder abuse, child abuse, spousal and intimate partner abuse, sibling abuse and dating abuse,” says Parker.
“We also talked about why domestic violence is underreported and how it can happen with LGBT and same-sex couples, too; it’s always about power and control, whatever your orientation. It doesn’t matter what skin color you have, how much money you make or any of those things.”
“Hitting is not okay.”
Poster-making sessions were held to enable BMCC clubs and departments to create placards to carry in the Silent Procession throughout BMCC’s main building at 199 Chambers Street.
Youngsters of the BMCC Early Childhood Center also created posters, hand-stamping in bright tempura paints, signs that read, “Hands Are Not for Hitting” and “Hitting is not Okay.”
“We teach the children to speak to each other, when they have a conflict,” says Early Childhood Center Head Teacher Christina Best.
“You’d be amazed at how quickly they get it.”
These were displayed along the walls in Richard Harris Terrace, where speakers were gathered and a luncheon was held afterwards.
“Real men don’t hit women.”
Speakers at the opening domestic violence awareness event included Student Government Association (SGA) Senator Annzalena Yusuf, who read an original poem “based on my beliefs as a Muslim,” and added that “the prophet Muhammad said, ‘the strongest of men is he who restrains anger in moments of strife’.”
Other speakers were Giulia Finetto, treasurer of the BMCC Sisterhood Society, who noted that “domestic violence is one of the most underreported crimes around the world, and in the U.S., every 15 seconds a woman is battered.”
Science major Raul Perez shared his history as a perpetrator of domestic violence, in order to encourage other men to seek professional help for their behavior.
“I was arrested for domestic violence more than once,” he said. “The cost was losing my home and losing my wife. If you’re in an abusive relationship, get help immediately.”
BMCC President Antonio Pérez took the stage right after Raul Perez.
“That was very inspirational,” he said, and told the story of his sister, who experienced domestic violence but was able to leave her situation and restart her life.
“I share my story because it’s your story,” said the President. “It happens in all families.”
After the speakers, the audience began a silent procession through BMCC.
One participant, computer science major Mahamadou Doucoure from Mali, West Africa, was walking with the BMCC group, Partners Lending Universal Support (PLUS).
“As they say,” he commented, “real men don’t hit women.”
Prominent guest speakers
Three one-hour sexual assault panel discussions on domestic violence were held in Richard Harris Terrace and the Hudson Room, and presented an array of experts in their fields.
“There was a lot of participation,” says Director Parker. “I had to order more chairs! It went from the history of domestic violence, to situations today.”
The first panel was moderated by Professor Brianne Waychoff of the department of Speech, Communications and Theatre Arts.
It featured Professor Michael McGee of the Health Education department and ally to the BMCC’s Safe Zone program; science major Raul Perez, and Ashley Warner, a clinical social worker who has worked in crisis intervention for victims of domestic violence.
The second panel was moderated by Margaret Barrow, Deputy Chair of the English department, and featured three panelists: Chief Diversity Officer Iyana Titus; Vanessa Bing, professor of psychology at LaGuardia Community College, and Hannah Pennington, Executive Director of the Manhattan Family Justice Center in the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence.
The third panel, moderated by Priscilla Rogers-Fahy, Associate Director of the BMCC Counseling Center, featured Jennifer Baumgardner, Executive Director and Publisher of The Feminist Press at CUNY; Sabra Jackson, a parent advocate at the Center for Family Representation, and Robin Waite, Director of Public Education and Training in the Office of Domestic Violence, NYC Human Resources Administration.
A global perspective
The domestic awareness events also included a symposium on women and violence facilitated by Professors Olivia Cousins and Lisa Grace of the BMCC Health Education Department.
Speakers for that event included Sunita Viswanath, Co-Founder and Board Member of Women for Afghan Women; Attorney R. Evon Idahosa of the Pathfinders Justice Initiative and six-grade activist Rosa Lander, founding member of Girls Read for Girls Readathon, a group of middle-school girls inspired by the courage of recent Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai, and which has raised over $5,000 for The Malala Fund.
Together, they presented "global perspectives on the presence and forms of sexual assault beyond the limited western framework of domestic violence, and that was an eye opener for many of our students," says Professor Cousins.
"The pervasiveness of war and poverty, undergirded by corruption, often pushes us to a realization that there is much we do not know, regarding the limitations placed on the lives of women and girls worldwide."
Where to go for help
Any person who wants to talk about domestic violence “should go to the BMCC Counseling Center,” says Deborah Parker.
“They have 12 licensed, clinical counselors who have a background in post-traumatic stress and other areas to help students begin to address these issues.”
Another option, she says, is the BMCC Women’s Resource Center, “because it’s recognized as an alternative safe space. Also, the BMCC nurse is very instrumental. Very often I refer the student to the nurse’s office because they want to talk to someone about a physical injury, and that’s a place to start.”
Or, a person can contact the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence.
EDITOR'S NOTE: To read the CUNY policy on domestic violence and the workplace, click HERE.