On Tuesday March 10th, Lesley University hosted a panel discussion on domestic violence, in the amphitheater of University Hall on the Porter Campus. Congresswoman Katherine Clark, who represents Massachusetts’ 5th Congressional District, was scheduled to be the moderator, but she was unable to attend; so her legislative aide was there to moderate the event. The discussion panel consisted of four members: Dr. Catherine Koverola, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences at Lesley University; Marian Ryan, Middlesex District Attorney; Dr. David Adams, co-founder and co-director of Emerge; and Risa Mednick, director of Transition House.
When asked about who was most vulnerable and at risk for abuse, Dean Koverola answered, “everyone is vulnerable…vulnerability is all around us…” though she did note that children are the biggest population at risk due to their age. “People become more vulnerable when we don’t protect their vulnerability.” Dean Koverola went on to explain how there are multiple resources on the Lesley University campus for those experiencing trauma: the counseling center and the women’s center are two resources for students if they need someone to talk to. Additionally, she recognized that all staff and faculty are provided with ongoing training in these areas, specifically those who work in these areas.
Dr. David Adams of Emerge, a counseling program aimed toward men who abuse women, explained to the audience what abuse is, including that it can—and typically is—a combination of different abusive tactics, from verbal abuse to physical abuse to sexual abuse to economic abuse, to name a few. He reminded the audience, “100% of domestic abuse is caused by an abuser.” Additionally, he recognized that domestic abuse is a leading cause of homelessness among women and children. He acknowledged that in situations of domestic abuse, the women and children are forced to leave their home. “Why should the victim and children be forced to uproot their lives when they’re in the situation of abuse, rather than the abuser himself?”
Risa Mednick of Transition House, a domestic violence agency that provides safe housing and holistic support for abuse victims, noted the importance of early childhood education. She argued that providing universal early education would be beneficial in preventing violence in the future.
One audience member questioned what the state of Massachusetts was doing to address domestic violence towards the LGBTQ community; specifically, what protection was offered to the trans community that is currently being offered to the hetero community?
The panel members recognized that domestic abuse was just as common in LGBTQ communities as it was in heterosexual communities. Dr. Adams pointed out that homophobia by itself is a form of abuse, and is a factor that is keeping the violence alive.
A member in the audience who works with an organization relating to domestic abuse contributed to this question as well, saying that she has noticed a shift in the way people address domestic violence toward the LGBTQ community. She has seen her colleagues become more culturally aware by learning more about the issues and by educating themselves on using the correct gender terms when talking to people. “The last thing we want to do is make someone feel uncomfortable when they are in need of help,” she said.
Most of the event focused on domestic abuse toward women because it is an issue that disproportionately affects women. In fact, multiple people at the event said “women are disproportionately the victims [of domestic violence] and men are disproportionately the abusers.” However, it was noted on several occasions that domestic abuse can happen to anyone, and that the issue should be addressed from the family perspective.
To learn more about Emerge and Transition House, visit http://www.emergedv.com and http://www.transitionhouse.org