Alex Moreno said he got chills after he finished reading what happened between Cara and Brian, two fictional characters based on a real-life story of dating violence, as part of “In Their Shoes,” an event hosted by the Interpersonal Violence Program’s Health Promotion and Prevention Services at BU on Tuesday night.
The event, held in Old Union Hall in the University Union, allowed participants like Moreno, a senior majoring in psychology, to learn the perspectives of those in violent domestic and interpersonal relationships by allowing them to make decisions on behalf of characters in the story.
“It’s really sad and really hard to read these scenarios,” Moreno said. “Getting to the end and realizing that this is a true story [is difficult.]”
Attendees like Moreno had to decide what Cara should do as Brian’s behavior became increasingly volatile. This allowed him to understand, he said, Cara’s conflicting feelings of guilt and fear as she struggled to deal with Brian’s obsessive behavior.
Esther Louis-Juste, the sexual health and interpersonal violence prevention graduate assistant for Health Promotion and Prevention Services, the organizer of In Their Shoes and a first-year graduate student studying social work, said she chose this interactive form of engagement to make sure the gravity of dating violence resonated with participants.
“When you facilitate something like this where people are actually walking around, they’re actually not only being forced to engage but they’re actually reading,” Louis-Juste said. “Learning, experiencing what these people actually had to go through.”
According to statistics read at the event, nearly one in three college women have been in an abusive relationship. However, 38 percent of college students say they wouldn’t know how to get help if they were victims of dating abuse. Another 58 percent say they don’t know what to do to help someone who is a victim of dating abuse.
To combat this, organizations like the Crime Victims Assistance Center, which helps victims of interpersonal violence in Broome County; High Hopes Helpline, which lets BU students talk to student operators about issues they’re facing; Real Education About College Health (REACH), which does outreach to help students talk about health issues; and 20:1 sexual assault prevention, which helps students prevent sexual assault and learn more about bystander intervention, tabled at the event as to promote the resources available to students.
Evgenia Sergis, a senior majoring in human development, said the simulation made her think about her younger sisters.
“Even just reading the first few cards made me really stressed out,” Sergis said. “It just makes me really wonder about how many people are out there who are actually experiencing these situations.”
Haley Murphy, ‘14, sexual assault response team coordinator and campus sexual assault liaison at the Crime Victims Assistance Center, said she wanted students to know there are services for students who want to be anonymous.
“If the student isn’t ready to go forward with the school, that’s fine — my agency can offer them the support that they need without having to get the school involved,” Murphy said. “Having these different resources with different confidentiality levels is really important.”
According to Louis-Juste, another important preventative measure to stop domestic and interpersonal violence is educating students on how to intervene as a bystander or as an upstander.
“If you see somebody that’s not OK, ask them, ‘Hey, are you OK?’” Louis-Juste said.”If someone says that they’ve been sexually assaulted, say, ‘Hey, I believe you. I’m with you.’ Give them the power and the control, give them the voice that was taken away from them.”
Brendan Burns, a 20:1 sexual assault prevention intern and a junior majoring in political science, said it’s important to teach students to not be abusers.
“It shouldn’t be whether or not I’m going to get caught, or punished or what the law is — it should be I don’t want to hurt somebody,” Burns said.
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