Anger into action: USCB events call for end to domestic, sexual violence

tbarton@beaufortgazette.comApril 22, 2013 

T-shirts hang on a clothesline and blow in the breeze outside the student center at the University of South Carolina Beaufort's Hilton Head Gateway campus.

Written on them are messages from victims of domestic and sexual abuse.

"Abuse isn't love, learn it before it's too late," reads one shirt. Another: "Domestic violence is NOT like the movies ... The woman does NOT always come out on top in victorious fashion."

A group of sociology students in assistant professor Deborah J. Cohan's "Intimacy and Violence" course worked with Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse to hang the clothesline as part of weeklong events that are a capstone to the course.

"You hear stories from these survivors and you feel a lot of sympathy and anger -- you're just enraged by their story that you feel the need to act ... instead of feeling sorry for someone," junior Jamie Barker said of the class. "You put yourself into action to change things, which is what we want everyone to do. ... If we can make our youth aware that this is happening and change that for them, maybe they won't grow up to be abusers or see abuse."

The series culminates Tuesday, beginning with a self-defense seminar at 1:40 p.m. in front of the school's library.

Andrew Jones, 21, a junior, said the demonstration will differ from typical self-defense seminars, which focus on defending against attacks from strangers. This demonstration will instead focus on attacks by spouses and partners -- which account for the vast majority of domestic-violence cases.

"Ninety percent of surviving an altercation like this is mental," Jones said. "... You can fight someone you don't care about. It's much harder to put your hands on someone you love or have personal feelings for."

Later Tuesday night at 7, former FBI profiler Eugene Rugala will give a speech about domestic violence and stalking in the workplace.

Rugala was one of the FBI's profilers in the unit made famous by the book and movie "The Silence of the Lambs," which analyzes violent crimes including murder, sexual assault, and school and workplace violence.

He will speak in Room 237 of the campus library. The public is invited.

Cohan said Rugala will address the escalation of workplace violence -- typically stalking -- to domestic and sexual violence so that "attendees will better understand the tactics and strategies of perpetrators so people can stay safe."

His talk will be followed by a candlelight "call to action," in which victims of domestic and sexual violence share uplifting stories of survival.

"It's a way not to end the class in isolation, because if they were doing their own research papers ... I can't think of anything worse for a class like this," Cohan said. "We have to be able to do something to create some sort of light and really have some action."

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

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