On November 8, the College of Arts and Sciences Buccino Leadership Cohort held a Domestic Violence Awareness Panel, led by students Johannah Manon-og and Shannon Meloche. The panelists were Associate Director of student life and Director of SHU KnowMore Nicole Giglia, Dr. Prithi Shah and Dr. Kristina Vande Vrede from CAPS, CEO Sheri Kurdakul who founded the ‘VictimsVoice’ documentation tool for victims of domestic violence and is a survivor herself, and Ana Diaz, Director of Programs at shelter Safe + Sound Somerset.
The panel opened with a brief presentation by Manon-og and Meloche which explained the definition of domestic violence and dating violence. They then discussed how and why they organized the panel and their hopes of making it an annual event. They mentioned that one of their motivations was that October was domestic violence awareness month. Then panelist and survivor Sheri Kurdakul gave a brief speech, highlighting her personal experience with domestic abuse. “It is about complete and total control over someone else,” Kurdakul said. She also listed different types of abuse that are less well-known, such as financial and emotional abuse, as well as physical. She also mentioned how prevalent yet overlooked domestic abuse against males is. Kurdakul kept a focus of documentation, which is what ‘VictimsVoice’ does, as a means of legally escaping an abuser.
The panel discussion covered warning signs of unhealthy relationships, advice to those going through violence or those close to a victim, how to ask a potential victim about their situation and if they need help, and resources for victims and their loved ones at Seton Hall as well as within New Jersey and nationally. They discussed how abusers can be ‘normal people’, chipping away at emotions, history of bad behavior or legal trouble, isolation, the threat of self-harm or suicide if the victim leaves them. According to Dr. Prihti, “it’s more subtle than what we see in movies, it is the jealousy that is romanticized.” Throughout the discussion, panelists mentioned many tactics and forms of control that an abuser might use, such as tracking technology usage or isolating the victim from friends and family.
The panel then opened up for a Q&A, which led to discussions about mental issues stemming from abuse as well as safety plans and resources for abusers themselves to seek help. Kurdakul told the crowd that, “by law in NJ if u have to take time off of work for a court or filing a restraining order it is paid time off.” She stated that documentation is crucial to reporting domestic violence. Dr. Prithi stated that the best way to help someone you know in a domestic violence situation is support, “support but don’t control your friends, don’t judge them or tell them what to do.” Diaz agreed with Dr. Prithi’s sentiment stating that you have to “support, don’t alienate, don’t talk bad about their partner,” in order to really help.
If you or a loved one is struggling with domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit www.thehotline.org online. Visit CAPS for more information and resources.