Display raises abuse awareness
In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Sexual Assault Peer Advisors and WISE at Dartmouth placed silhouette cutouts of domestic violence victims in prominent locations across campus on Monday. The silhouettes display facts about domestic and relationship violence and include both the SAPA and WISE hotlines to provide aid to students seeking help or more information, according to volunteer coordinator for local service at the Tucker Foundation, Stacia Burd.
The silhouettes are part of a larger national campaign called the Silent Witness Initiative, which is meant to spread a message of hope, help and healing for the victims of domestic violence. Nationally, the cutouts feature the name of a victim, but the cutouts on campus instead feature just facts and figures, according to WISE student leader Cante Nakanishi '13.
"[The death of victims] doesn't really apply to our campus, but we do want to get the word out there about domestic and relationship violence," she said.
The cutouts are displayed in "high traffic spaces" on campus, such as Collis Cafe, the Class of 1953 Commons, Novack Cafe and the Rockfeller Center, Nakanishi said. The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness about domestic violence, as many students are unaware of how relationship violence falls under this category, according to Burd.
"Women ages 16 to 40 experience the highest per capita rate of violence and I don't think that's very well known," she said. "By putting out statistics and warning signs, it's my hope that people will recognize behaviors and gut-feelings that they felt were not OK."
Due to the topic's serious nature, the campaign wanted to find a non-controversial way of spreading awareness that was accessible to students, according to SAPA Genevieve Mifflin '14.
"We wanted to do something that would reach a lot of students," she said. "If you have a campaign that is more widespread, then a lot more people have access to it."
Since most of the time, students do not notice posters and similar campaigns put up across campus, the group opted for "something that was visually gripping, but not overwhelming," she added. Because the silhouettes put a face to the issue, they should have a greater impact on students, according to Mifflin.
"The silhouettes are a real body figure as opposed to just facts and statistics, which I feel can seem empty at times," she said. "It's not something that goes unnoticed, and hopefully it is something that is received positively because it is done with all the best intentions to really support students and support what students go through."
Burd, who is also the advisor for WISE at Dartmouth, said that because the group is relatively new, WISE's main goal is to increase its visibility and alert the student body of its presence.
The Silent Witness project was chosen due to time constraints and labor shortages, and the groups wanted to impact campus in a way that did not require excessive resources, according to Mifflin.
"[Big] events take a lot of time and manpower to put on and we just don't have that right now," she said. "Doing something different could be helpful as well."
Burd said that she is happy with the impact of the Silent Witness campaign and hopes to continue this project in the future.
"At this point our goals include raising awareness regarding college dating and sexual violence, informing the campus community of different resources available and encouraging students interested in these issues to get involved," she said. "I think we are off to a good start this year."
Though they thought that the campaign was rightly targeted at raising awareness about the issue of domestic violence, they are unsure of how effective the project will be.
"I thought they were really powerful, it's just hard because they were put in such inconvenient spots," Perrin Brown '15 said. "The problem is that they're put in places that people pass by so quickly."
The hype associated with Hurricane Sandy may also have detracted some of the attention away from the silhouettes, but the organizers still regard the project as successful, Mifflin said.
"For me and for the students and faculty members working on the project, the main objective for the campaign was to bring awareness and attention to this issue," she said. "Assuming students did notice the silhouettes today and that some took the time to read the information, I would say the campaign was successful."