V-week highlights increase in domestic abuse cases

By Pamela King

Increasing cases of domestic violence reported at Northeastern raises the question whether there are more violent occurrences or if more students are reporting it now.

“We never know if there is a pure increase, but we are concerned that there has been an increase in the reporting [of acts of domestic violence] in the past six to seven years,” said Assistant Director of Public Safety Jim Ferrier. The increase in reported cases may also be a result of the growth of the on-campus population over the past few years, he said.

This trend is particularly pertinent in the midst of V-Week, a global movement to eliminate violence against women. Revenue from V-Week events, like the “Vagina Monologues” performances, is donated to organizations like The Elizabeth Stone House and Rosie’s Place, which support homeless women and victims of domestic violence.

Senior Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs Philomena Mantella declared the university a rape-free zone on Monday to formally welcome V-Day to campus.

Currently, the primary resource for abuse victims is the Northeastern University Police Department (NUPD).

“Unfortunately we have too much experience [with domestic violence],” Ferrier said.

The department has skilled professionals who can inform victims of their rights. Some of their services include housing relocation, reference to advocacy groups and counseling. In extreme cases, NUPD can assist with criminal prosecution.

Kristen Moussalli, a senior political science major, said she understands why women would be scared to talk about the issue, as there are not many places people know they can turn to for help.

“The school should make more of an effort to market their programs. We should have more counselors, seminars, workshops and support groups,” Moussalli said. “Any exposure of the issue can benefit the cause …. It’s the idea of knowing you are not alone that makes people feel more secure.”

One important service NUPD provides is assistance with attaining restraining orders. These are mostly sought in dating violence situations. Ferrier said the victim seeks a restraining order in about half of all domestic violence situations: most victims do not request a restraining order the first time a situation occurs, but after subsequent incidents of violence, he said.

Meghan Connor, a freshman pharmacy major, said a violence hotline would be a good idea because many victims are afraid to be too public about their situations.

University Health and Counseling Services (UHCS) is another option available to students. In addition to crisis assistance, UHCS offers individual and group counseling to students. Group counseling is an opportunity for students to relate to others who have been in their situation and learn to open up after a crisis, according to UHCS officials.

Middler engineering major Matt Froncillo said violence originates from family values.

“It’s become pretty obvious that you shouldn’t hit your girlfriend,” Froncillo said. “People just need good role models in their life.”

Northeastern was granted $200,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice last fall, to establish a Campus Center for Violence Against Women.

The center will be a place for information, education and services to develop Northeastern’s sexual assault prevention program. It will focus on peer education and strengthening of the university’s relations with community organizations.

The center is a collaborative effort of Public Safety, the College of Arts and Sciences, UHCS and other departments. Although still in its organizational stages, the center will eventually offer many options for domestic violence victims, like counseling and support services.

“The purpose of the center is to initiate programs that bring the issues to the attention of the university,” Ferrier said. “A number of victims of domestic violence don’t know who to report to and they end up staying in these kinds of relationships. There are people who care.”

– Staff writer Mary Ann Georgantopoulos contributed to this report.

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