Thursday, October 4, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 31


Reach out during domestic violence awareness month

Gail Gillan
Guest columnist

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

When I was in my late 20s, I volunteered my home as a "Safe House" for the local women's shelter. Once the shelter ran out of space, they would call and I would volunteer to take someone in until space became available. At the time, I doubt I knew the risk I incurred, or the extent to which the help was needed.

Domestic violence. Intimate violence. It sounds so sterile, as if it's a systemic activity with no real victim. It's not. It's anger, rage, battery, abuse you get the picture. And it
happens all too often, in all too many homes, across all socioeconomic groups.

But why be concerned with it here in college? Why pay attention to such an issue just because October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month?

Consider this. The most frequent victim of violence by an intimate is a female, aged 16 to 24.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in one year alone, around 3 percent of college women reported having experienced a rape or attempted rape. That statistic may
seem like a small proportion, but consider that on a campus of our size, it would mean that around 450 college women we care about could have been raped or could have
experienced attempted rape in the past year alone.

It doesn't just happen to women. It happens to men, and it is particularly challenging for a man to seek help when abused. However, the numbers also tell a staggering story
of what is happening to women.

Whereas men are most likely to experience violence at the hands of a stranger, women are most likely to experience it at the hands of someone close to them. In intimate
violence, 72 percent of the murders and 85 percent of the non-lethal violence targets women.

In Houston, more than four times the number of women who could be helped had to be turned away from a shelter because it was too full.

Any woman, at any time, within any socioeconomic class, can be victimized by violence.

A college education does not protect you, but a college community, willing to reach out, can. Do more than be "aware" this month. Encourage someone to get counseling if
they need help. Encourage others not to make light of a serious and deadly concern. Find the way that's best for you to make a difference.

This month, you will see boxes collecting materials for the "Harvest of Hope: End Domestic Violence" campaign. Outlined is a "wish list" for the Houston Area Women's
Center. Take the time to reach out. Because reaching out is what UH is really all about.

Gillan, a Wellness Center
employee, can be reached via

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