Campus for Consent hosts event on domestic violence
“Are you going to survive the night?"
This is a question that Sarah Omicioli, a prevention and education specialist at Safe Haven Ministries, must ask women, children and teenagers who are being domestically abused. Omicioli delivered a lecture on domestic abuse Tuesday, Feb. 20, in the Kirkhof Center Pere Marquette Room to a crowd of about 40 people, most of whom were Grand Valley State University Students.
The event, titled "Domestic Violence and Stalking With Safe Haven," was hosted by GVSU's Campus for Consent student organization. Omicioli's presentation consisted of an in-depth slideshow, crowd participation, a video and time at the end for questions.
“Today, we’re talking about abuse from intimate partners,” Omicioli said. “This type of abuse does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone regardless of age, race, socioeconomic status, anything at all.”
Omicioli also spoke about topics that relate to domestic abuse, such as sexual assault, consent and bystander intervention.
“These topics are important to learn about now rather than later,” Omicioli said. “Issues like these are especially prevalent on college campuses.”
Omicioli discussed bystander intervention, a method of stopping sexual assault by stepping in at the sign of something suspicious.
“As bystanders, it is our job to speak up when we see something wrong,” Omicioli said. “A lot of people don’t want to step in. They might think someone else will, or they believe it’s none of their business.”
Omicioli identified two questions that bystanders should ask themselves when appropriate: Does the person in front of the bystander truly want to give consent to someone, and are they capable of giving consent?
Some people still struggle with the idea of consent, especially when alcohol is involved. Drinking on college campuses may seem inevitable, but to Jessica Goodwin, the vice president of GVSU’s Campus for Consent, sexual assault should not be this way.
When Omicioli asked the crowd what consent is, Goodwin raised her hand immediately. In a clear, strong voice, she answered, “Consent is an enthusiastic, unquestionable yes.”
Another important aspect of Omicioli’s presentation was how to recognize and respond to abuse.
“At the root of all domestic abuse is one person’s need for power and control over the other,” she said.
Omicioli explained her rule of thumb when it comes to witnessing certain acts: Trust your gut.
“People are not born abusive,” she said. “This is something that is learned.”
Omicioli also discussed the prevalence of victim blaming in response to reported sexual assault. Toward the end of the presentation, she talked about the many ways to respond to someone if they reveal they have been sexually or domestically abused. The most important response, in her opinion, is to believe them.
“What risk do you take in believing them rather than not believing them?” she asked. “Oftentimes, when people share such revealing information with you, they aren’t looking for advice. They want support and a friend to count on.”