Purple Thursday for Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Here at Tarleton State University, wearing purple is typically to celebrate Purple Thursday, however, during October it is to raise awareness for domestic violence.

“Nationally, one in four women and one in seven for men are victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence is pervasive, entirely too common and entirely too normalized in our society,” Assistant Director, Substance Abuse & Violence Prevention Program, Caris Thetford, said.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a national movement to bring attention to this very complex topic. In Oct. 1987, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed. Congress designated October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in 1989. Legislation has been passed every year since with National Coalition Against Domestic Violence providing key leadership.

“Domestic Violence Awareness Month shines a light on a very difficult topic but is also a very ugly piece of our world and our society,” Thetford said.

When we think of what domestic violence looks like, most people think of physical violence. These are the stories one typically hears about.

“We know that physical violence in an intimate relationship is wrong,” Thetford said.

Sadly, domestic violence can have many different sides besides just physical violence.

“People don’t always understand why this awareness is still so necessary that [physical violence] is only a small piece really of what domestic violence is and what the problem is,” Thetford said.

An abusive relationship does not start with physical abuse, it starts with very subtle behavior, that can be very hard to recognize. These behaviors are difficult for the victim and their friends to identify.

“Part of the importance of DVAM is having people understand how pervasive this problem is,” Thetford said.

A victim has to deal with this in every aspect of their life. Their partner may have isolated them from their family and friends, may be controlling their finances or controlling their movements through a tracking app on their phone. Domestic violence can show up in many different ways. This makes it very complicated and very dangerous for someone to leave the relationship.

“If a friend or family member starts to feel some discomfort with some of the things they are seeing, they get that gut feeling. It is very important to pay attention to those things,” Thetford said. “If your friend is having undercurrent anxiety about wanting to keep their partner is happy.”

There are many national organizations who work with political officials to try to prevent domestic violence, as well as, support survivors.

It is important for friends and family to realize that these warning signs may not always be obvious at first.

Although Counseling Services might not be having events on campus, they are still holding trainings and having workshops with various departments across campus to help students, faculty and staff. These professional development sessions will talk about evidence-based assessments working with domestic violence situations and perpetrator dynamics.

“Sadly, we see it every day, being on the receiving end of an abusive relationship, having counseling services that offer assistance to students who are having that violence and students who faced violence. As well as students who recognize that past relationships that they have gotten out of were domestic violence situations,” Thetford said.

It is not uncommon for students disclosing student on student violence or a student discussing prior violence.

“We also see students who come in and realize they were the abuser in the relationship and they want to work through that and become a better partner,” Thetford said.

The Health Center can provide health services for those who need it and law enforcement can help if a student needs to pursue charges for a situation of violence on or off campus. Cross Timbers Family Services can also be a resource for students and people in the community.

“We know that hitting your partner is wrong but some of those earlier behaviors get normalized. Normalized, excused and overlooked due to influence from pop culture and what exists in a community or family,” Thetford said.

Thousands of people are impacted by domestic violence each year. If we don’t recognize and understand the dynamics of abusive relationships, we cannot stop them. It is difficult to acknowledge when something horrible is happening. It is easy to explain it away or rationalize, especially if we like that person but it is not an excuse to turn a blind eye. We all have to be a part of the solution.

“When it comes to the root cause of domestic violence, why this happens, why one partner is violence towards the other. This is rooted in power and control,” Thetford said. “There is a confusion that anger is the root cause. Anger may be an element of what happens in an incident.”

This anger may not be the whole problem. It is one person’s desire to exert power and control over another person. This comes from that individual’s deep insecurity.

“A person who is healthy and comfortable in their own skin does not need to exert control over another person,” Thetford said. “Part of solving this is really looking at our own behavior.”

If interested in learning more about domestic violence and how it affects people. Thetford recommends that you take a look at yourself and your relationships with other people. Are you being healthy? Do I treat my partner and the people in my life with dignity and respect at all times?

“Be an active and committed bystander and supportive friend. It is important that you are also a healthy and supportive partner in your own relationship,” Thetford said.

On Thursday Oct. 15, 2020 wearing purple will not only be about sharing your Texan spirit but it will also be showing the acknowledgment of Domestic Violence Awareness month.

Student Counseling Services is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Students can schedule their appointment online or call 254-968-9044. Phone calls outside of these hours will automatically be redirected to ProtoCall, staffed by licensed mental health professionals who can help you in a crisis.

Don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone, your friends and family will always be there for you. Counseling Services has a wide variety of services ready to help anyone in need.