Opening up conversation about domestic violence on Pitt state’s campus, Stephanie Spitz, campus victim advocate, started a series called Coffee and Conversations. With coffee and a variety of creamers available for those in attendance, attendees could get their coffee fix as well as learn more about domestic violence.
“It helps to set the environment where it is just an environment where there’s coffee, so people are fueled and ready to go but also so people have an open and accepting space where their thoughts and feelings and emotions are valid and where they feel comfortable to share any sort of information they have on this topic and to grow with us together,” said Spitz.
On Wednesday, Feb. 6, at 8:30 a.m. students, faculty, and community members were invited to attend the beginning conversation about domestic violence dynamics.
“I was invited to it and I think it’s an important conversation to have,” said Jeremy Johnson, Crawford county commissioner. “… this is still an issue and it’s an important conversation that we need to be having about not just how do we respond to those situations when they arise but how do we prevent them from occurring in the first place.”
The event started with a question posed by Spitz, “When was the first time you’ve heard of domestic violence?” Spitz hoped to start every conversation with a question similar, to open discussion among students, faculty, and community members in attendance. Each attendee was given the chance to discuss their memories and experiences of learning about domestic abuse and violence.
“This is the first time the campus victim advocate here has done some sort of conversational piece where they’re inviting faculty, staff, students, the community, to come and kind of start conversations on these hard and taboo topics,” Spitz said.
Spitz also handed out a power and control wheel, that explained the different types of domestic violence and how it can vary. According to Spitz, domestic abuse is not always violence.
“So looking at the different sections of domestic violence whether it’s verbal or emotional, spiritual or financial, digging deeper than just the initial reaction of people thinking it’s just physical violence when it’s not it goes a lot deeper than that in relationships, and also bringing to light that this could take place in an intimate partner relationship, a family relationship, a friend relationship,” said Spitz.
The discussion then changed to different news articles of women who had been killed by their partner in domestic disputes. With an interactive setting, while Spitz talked about different news articles, attendees could discuss their feelings and opinions on the matter.
“I thought it was really informative and helpful, both personally for me I feel like it’s important to be informed on this,” Johnson said. “Domestic violence specifically, looks like especially if you have experienced privilege and don’t have a lot of first-hand experience with it, it’s important I feel like to be informed of it and to know both within your personal life, you can respond to it, but also as an elected representative I feel like it’s important to have that information and knowledge so that when I’m making policy it can be informed by this kind of information.”
The definitions of direct and indirect victims of violence were also discussed, and how one could be a direct or an indirect victim and what help they can receive.
According to Spitz, there are a multitude of ways one can be abused, without violence, that are no longer considered abuse, which is detrimental to women who experience domestic abuse’s safety and rights.
“This is actually the kick-off event for the rest of the series,” said Spitz. “This is one of three that I will be doing, so today, this week, we were talking about domestic violence dynamics, talking about some cases in the community as well as laws and things of that nature and really just getting into why domestic violence takes place.”
Spitz is continuing the series throughout the semester. On March 6, there will be another Coffee and Conversations discussion held, focusing on stalking in the digital age. Then on April 10, the conversation will revolve around ‘sexpectations’ and consent.
“So in order to even be able to talk about domestic violence I think we need to talk about when people started being aware of this and when they started having conversation, albeit with friends or family, or at school, whenever that was, whoever that was, and pulling back the layers on that and building towards the conversation today about what domestic violence truly is, which is someone trying to use power and control over another individual in any shape or form they can,” said Spitz.
Spitz provided a variety of pamphlets and handouts on the topic with information as well as contact information for herself, as well as SafeHouse Crisis Center.