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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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CLEAR works to educate on all aspects of domestic abuse

Domestic violence is more than black eyes and broken arms, and a campus group hopes to give a glimpse of how to identify and help those who may be suffering trauma this month. 

During October, which has been dubbed Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Consensual Language, Education, Awareness and Relationships, or CLEAR, a student anti-violence education program, will work to give an overview of how to recognize signs of abuse and how to help survivors.

Ryan Jackson, assistant coordinator for CLEAR, said domestic and dating violence is often incorrectly believed to be an issue that only happens off campus.

“Students and staff alike believe that’s not something that happens here in Aggieland,” Jackson said. “But the reality is that a very significant population of our students will experience domestic or dating violence before they graduate. In the past 13 years, A&M has lost four students that we know of to domestic violence.”

Many other students have endured violence, but didn’t lose their lives, Jackson said. Lower levels and forms of abuse can escalate to violence if it is not addressed.

“Whether it is a person who doesn’t let their significant other hang out with any other friends, or a spouse who makes their partner check in on social media everywhere they go so they know where they are at all times, or a person who doesn’t use their hands but uses their words to break down or abuse their partner,” Jackson said. “All these are behaviors that happen daily at A&M, and can take a significant psychological or even physical toll on the survivor.”

Society has been programmed to think of domestic violence in a “man vs. woman” context, said April-Autumn Jenkins, CLEAR program coordinator. However, some women are the abuser in unhealthy relationships.

“Society says that it is not normal for guys to be in relationships that are violent unless they are the perpetrators of the violence because they’re strong,” Jenkins said.  “Guys are in charge and women are delicate, especially southern women — we live in the South, we are at a very conservative university.”

Some dating violence situations can lead to other serious situations such as substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and possibly further relationships involving domestic violence, Jenkins said.  

“I know that it sounds crazy, but I taught preschool for a while saying, ‘hands are not for hurting,’” Jenkins said. “Well, I’ve found that in this work, I say that as well, but your words are not for hurting, either. Dating and domestic violence is more than just the physical assault, and I think people get caught up in that as well.”

Jenkins said some of the tools they will teach this month have to do with knowing when to step back from an argument. 

“There’s this old saying that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me, and that’s not true. Words can hurt as well,” Jenkins said. “When you’re trying to control someone with your words, then that’s when you know you need to step back.”

One of CLEAR’s events, called “True Life: I’m a Survivor of Dating Violence,” is modeled after a popular MTV reality show.

“We’ll be having kind of a discussion with survivors of dating violence and those who have supported them in that difficult time just to ask some questions and talk to them about their experience and what that was like,” Jenkins said.

Dmitri Westbrook, CLEAR assistant coordinator, said he is helping with another event called “In Their Shoes” happening Oct. 29 in Rudder Tower 301 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

“The purpose of ‘In Their Shoes’ is to get others to understand the perspective of the victims, survivors of interpersonal violence,” Westbrook said. “Many people have an outsider perspective, but their perceptions on what happened may bring more information and awareness to them while participating in this activity.”

Jenkins said the program is based on true stories of six individuals.

“It builds some empathy for people who are experiencing dating and domestic violence, not only giving the perspective of the victim survivor, it gives the perspective of the potential perpetrator,” Jenkins said. “It’s a way to give some education and build some empathy around this topic and how we can reach out and help.”

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