By Maria Elliott
A panel called “The Anatomy of Domestic Violence Cases” convened to inform students about domestic violence Oct. 21 on Youngstown State University’s campus for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Monica Merrill, assistant professor in criminal justice and forensic science at YSU, said the panel aimed to look at domestic violence through the victim’s perspective.
Merrill said college students are at risk for domestic violence and intimate partner violence because they are trying to navigate a new and unfamiliar environment.
“Unfortunately, the most common time for any type of victimization is 18 to 24 [years old]. It’s also the time people are most likely to offend,” she said.
Jennifer Varley Gray, the social services and development officer for Compass Family and Community Services, led the panel and said the goal was to give students more than just textbook information on domestic violence.
“We want to tell you how it really goes down,” she said.
Gray said recognizing the trauma associated with domestic violence is one of the most important ways to support victims and dispel myths that violent behaviors are acceptable.
“These kinds of myths are still prevalent in our society but they are not accurate,” Gray said.
Trish Taylor, a licensed clinical counselor at Compass, explained psychological trauma causes “flight or fight” responses, which can put victims at further danger.
Taylor said, from a counselor’s perspective, understanding the psychology behind domestic violence is vital because victims may have a variety of different responses to traumatic situations.
“Why’ is irrelevant. What happened?” she said about what counselors should ask victims.
Lt. Tom Collins of the Austintown Police Department said a major issue in dealing with domestic disputes is police cannot take the primary aggressor into custody without obvious visual signs of abuse or threats.
Collins also said victims often refuse to press charges against abusers for a variety of reasons, and the police have no further control over the situation after that point.
“Domestic calls are difficult,” he said.
Audrey Walker, operations manager at Sojourner House, a Compass service and shelter for abuse victims, said the program has many offerings for domestic violence victims in addition to shelter.
Sojourner House has a 24-hour crisis helpline, judicial advocacy, case management, community education resources and recreational activities for victims.
Walker said those at Sojourner House try to make shelter life accommodating for victims so their stay is as pleasant as possible.
Linda Turner, a legal advocate at Sojourner House, said her job is to help victims after they decide to leave an abusive situation.
She said legal advocates are not lawyers, but they can help victims navigate the court process and paperwork that comes along with civil or criminal charges.
“I can talk with them and give them some quote unquote legal advice off the record,” Turner said.
Mark Weir, director of equal opportunity, policy development and Title IX services at YSU, said Title IX applies to federally funded educational institutions and protects students from discrimination on the basis of sex.
“As far as YSU is concerned, Title IX usually revolves around any type of sexual misconduct,” Weir said.
He said this can include sexual harassment, stalking, domestic violence, intimate partner violence and sexual assault.
“We operate here at YSU in the fact that if you see something, you say something, if you hear something, you say something, and that being silent about, whether it’s any type of sexual misconduct or domestic violence, is not something that we stand for here on this campus,” Weir said.
Victims of domestic violence can reach out to the Sojourner House 24-hour crisis helpline at 330-747-4040, report online at the Title IX services page at www.ysu.edu or call the YSU police department at 330-941-3527.