The film “Telling Amy’s Story” was shown by the Penn State Center for Women Students Thursday night to bring attention to October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month .
Domestic violence is spotlighted this month by organizations and resource centers on campus as well as in the State College area.
Made for the public in 2010 and shown nationwide, the film follows the life and death of State College resident, mother of two and Penn State alumna Amy Homan McGee. McGee was killed in 2001 by her husband, Vincent.
Peggy Lorah, director of the Center for Women Students , said the film is shown every year because of the way the case helped change the way issues of domestic violence are addressed, as well as the case’s relevance in the community.
According to the State College Police Department, 76 cases of domestic disorders violence and 29 cases of sexual assault have been reported from 2011 to 2012. This is similar to the 77 cases of domestic disorders violence and 31 cases of sexual assault that were reported in 2010 to 2011, police said.
But not all cases of sexual assault and domestic violence are reported. Jody Althouse, director of outreach and communications for the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, said the center served about 1,000 people who were affected by domestic violence in the past fiscal year, and approximately 200 reported to the center that they were sexually assaulted.
These figures include about 100 people who needed emergency shelter by the Resource Center because of domestic violence, Althouse said.
On campus, the numbers are significantly reduced as Lorah said the Center sees about 100 students a year.
“I think certainly if everyone came forward, there would be more than 1,000 victims of sexual assault and more for relationship violence,” Lorah said.
With these significant figures in mind, there are alternative views in terms of how to prevent the personal integration of these issues.
While Lorah said some people feel self defense classes help, being aware of the surrounding area and realizing that anyone can be affected by the issue of domestic violence is key.
“Just like there is no stereotypical victim, there is no stereotypical perpetrator,” Lorah said. “They come in all shapes, sizes and majors.”
Althouse also said perpetrators need to be held accountable for their actions, and asking, “What can we do to protect ourselves?” places the blame on the person affected by the crime, not the person committing it.
“[What] we need to be asking is ‘Why does he do that?’ ‘Why does he beat her?’ or whatever. [Those are] the questions we need to ask,” Althouse said. By “he” Althouse is referring to the fact that the majority of perpetrators are men.
Craig Leets, assistant director of the LGBTA Student Resource Center , added that culture’s skewed perception of the issues is also due to the idea that domestic violence and relationship violence can only occur in certain relationships.
“There is a sense that domestic violence and sexual assault is a man verse woman thing,” Leets said. “It can happen with any relationship, [including same-sex relationships].”
It is for these reasons that Leets, Althouse and Lorah said education of these issues is a constant need in any community.
Student Lilibell Sanchez, president of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority Inc., al so believes education about domestic violence is of the utmost importance. Her sorority hosts “Take Back the Night” each spring to allow people who were affected by domestic violence and sexual assault to tell their stories and start to recover.
“I think it’s an issue that a lot of people are afraid to admit it’s real,” Sanchez (senior-psychology) said. “You don’t want to believe you are a victim.”
She added that education provides an increase in awareness and gives victims a voice to speak out. Her sorority is also holding awareness programs this month.
Educational resources such as student group events, presentations and the services made available by the Center and Women’s Resource Center, poster campaigns in the LGBTA resource center and Thursday night’s showing of “Telling Amy’s Story” all serve to extend awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Althouse said the way in which domestic violence and sexual assault are discussed goes back to how these issues are perceived by society.
“I think people don’t realize how common domestic violence is. The national statistic is one in every four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime,” Althouse said.