Domestic violence an issue at USF

Pop singer Rihanna’s struggle with domestic violence before the Grammys is just one story among many.

Domestic violence is an issue not only on a global scale, but also at the University. Of the 63 crimes reported to the Advocacy Program at USF last year, 21 involved either relationship or sexual violence.

“This number is unrepresentative of the actual number,” said Nanci Newton, director of the Advocacy Program. “Relationship and sexual crime is grossly underreported,”

Daniel Turk, a graduate assistant involved in the program, said 10 percent of men who commit violent crimes commit 99 percent of domestic offenses.

Both Newton and Turk described domestic violence as a constant problem throughout society — not just a recent trend fostered by celebrities.

“USF does a good job in creating awareness. There are several courses that focus on domestic violence and relationship awareness,” Newton said. “We are constantly asked to come talk to first-year students about healthy relationships. Our campus is trying to get messages out.”

More than 50 percent of relationships suffer from some form of sexual violence, Newton said.

Turk said he believes this is because of a lack of awareness on the issue.

“The core of relationships in the media is sex, and that often glorifies violence. This creates a distorted view of love to young people,” Turk said. “Our society has so many negative role models out there, these people make it seem like men must be dominant in relationships.”

Professional certified victim service practitioners who work for the program advise students and promote awareness of crime, providing comprehensive and confidential services to students free of cost.

In addition to these services, the Advocacy Program will launch the REAL Project in April. It will focus on “men working together to end sexual and relationship violence” and provide men with the chance to become advocates for domestic violence.

Turk will direct the program.

“REAL is reaching male activists. It is essentially a form of bystander intervention,” he said. “We need to look at relationship as an equal partnership, and that is what REAL is hoping to do.”

The REAL campaign has received 100 signatures for a petition to end relationship
violence, including that of student body president Greg Morgan.

“Men are the allies — not the enemies. It could be their mothers, sisters and even grandmothers who have been victimized,” Turk said. “It’s happening. Even if it’s not happening to you, it’s happening to lots of people. REAL is trying to make the world a better place.”

Turk said he wants people to take more of a stand against the issue.

“If your friend were drunk at a party, you would take their keys away from them,” he said. “We should create the same attitude about domestic violence.”