Students connect during Chalk the Walk domestic violence awareness campaign
Douglas County’s Peace at Home organization with UCC’s student Government ASUCC is encouraging students with a virtual Chalk the Walk to celebrate Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) during October. All month, students can write positive messages drawn in chalk and post photos of these messages on ASUCC’s Chalk the Walk Facebook post for a chance to win a back-to-school themed prize.
“It can be really easy to be negative and to really just get stuck in like a gloomy mindset,” Erin Ritchie of Peace at Home said, noting that this is especially true for domestic violence survivors. “So, I think we are bringing awareness to positivity and also bringing awareness to folks who may be in an abusive relationship that there is a way to leave. There is help for you. There are services. You can move forward. You are not stuck in this forever.”
Peace at Home Advocacy Center, formerly Douglas County’s Battered Persons’ Advocacy, describes itself as a private non-profit agency focused on freeing communities from family violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking through empowerment, support and education. Ritchie is one of their Campus Advocacy, Resources & Education (CARE) advocates stationed at UCC who organizes the DVAM activities. As a CARE advocate, Ritchie offers confidential services like safety planning and peer assistance to UCC students and staff.
At a time where students and even staff are confined to virtual participation and are generally isolated in their home, it can be difficult to feel connected. Though virtual schooling poses challenges for creating campus connections, people at UCC are taking steps to not only bring students together but also to bring them together for a good cause. At least, that is Ritchie’s goal.
“It’s so easy to fell disconnected from your school — from your co-workers,” Ritchie said. “So, even if it is virtual like this, at least you’re having that connection again rather than letting it go.”
The hope with events like Chalk the Walk is to emphasize the importance of that connection and to remind students that services are available. Chalk the Walk is inspired by the national positivity movement of the same name and centered around students’ connection with each other and with the community. When students write their chalk messages and post them to the Facebook post on ASUCC’s page, they are automatically entered in a drawing for a chance to win a back-to-school prize including a backpack, a wireless speaker and headphones, school supplies and more.
The positive messages are meant to encourage participants and the general community. Still, they act as encouragement for domestic violence survivors in particular.
“These kinds of DVAM activities serve to educate everyone about this issue, and they also normalize reaching out for help and fight the stigma and culture of silence around abuse,” Hanna Culbertson, the UCC life coach, said. “With chalk the walk in particular, it also has a message of positivity and sending words of optimism and support to one another, and we all can use that, especially in these times.”
According to Ritchie, creating events and providing services is still of high priority and importance not just for survivors of domestic violence but for anyone going through stress, anxiety or dealing with any of the current changes and challenges of life. However, putting together events that encourage student action and collaboration is not easy during this time of virtual interaction and social distancing.
“We have so many meetings where we plan and try to come up with ideas,” said Maggie Walker, ASUCC public relations officer and nursing student at UCC. “We really want to engage students, and the times at hand really make things challenging. However, I hope students know how important it is to us that they have the best college experience possible.”
According to Culbertson, while it is more difficult to gain engagement from students, it is also easier to maintain as transportation issues are not as much of a concern for some students since they can participate in events and gain access to services from home.
In addition to the Chalk the Walk event occurring over the entire month of October, other activities recognizing DVAM and services related to mental and emotional health will continue on through the year. Ritchie will offer the A Window Between Worlds Workshops and other outreach activities year-round. She will be available for peer-peer support, crisis intervention, resource connections and more. There will also be more events recognizing DVAM such as the national Take Back the Night protest against sexual assault and domestic violence, occurring virtually this year, and later on for different awareness months such as Stalking Awareness Month in January and Sexual Assault Action Month in April.
For those who may have hesitations about joining in, Ritchie has some advice. “I would just recommend students to not be scared to reach out. I think it can be kind of intimidating to log onto some weird Zoom link and hope that more than just one person is there,” Ritchie said. “I encourage people to engage, and even if it might feel awkward, just do it anyways. Maybe you’ll make a friend. You never know.”
Those interested in learning more about DVAM, CARE advocacy or Peace at home can contact Ritchie directly at email@example.com or 541-440-7866, or visit Peace at Home’s DVAM webpage or UCC’s Peace at Home webpage.
For more immediate services, students can contact the Peace at Home 24/7 crisis line at 541-673-7867.
The UCC Life Coach, Culbertson, is offering additional workshops for this term. The Stress Management Group meets Thursdays from 2 to 3p.m., and the Parenting Support Group meets Wednesdays 10 to 11a.m. and 1 to 2p.m. For Zoom links to these groups or other questions, contact Culbertson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-440-7896.
Students can call the ACCESS assistant at 541-440-7900 to make an appointment for one-on-one counseling with Culbertson or make appointments via AdvisiorTrac.
Culbertson encourages those experiencing domestic violence to reach out: “Domestic Violence is something that affects so many people. It is a pervasive problem in our culture, involving intimate partners using power and control to abuse others emotionally, physical and/or sexually. If you are experiencing this, please know there is support available on campus and in the community to help you.”
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