Views on the News: National Domestic Abuse Awareness Month
Throughout the U.S., cases of domestic violence have increased across genders and sexual orientations, and within LGBTQIA+ communities they remain a particular threat. In addition to physical and verbal abuse, LGBTQIA+ survivors of domestic violence often face threats of being ‘outed,’ having increased economic and housing risks as a result of domestic violence and other unique challenges.
What can individuals, campuses, communities and/or policy leaders do to better support survivors of violence, or to foster healthier and more inclusive communities for all? Is there room at Brandeis for improvement of services and support systems, or a need for increased education to combat domestic and identity-based violence?
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Prof. Susan Curnan, (Heller)
When I think about the confluence of events and benchmarks occurring this month such as those you mention for the LGBTQ community my first thoughts go to RESILIENCE. The profound resilience of individual members of this community to adapt in the face of adversity and multiple stressors caused by homophobia and transphobia despite the hardships. And I think of the need to build better environments where LGBTQ people have a definite sense of belonging, respect and the support and opportunities where they can thrive. In other words a “structural resilience” in families of all kinds, organizations and institutions of all kinds and in policies at all levels. As a card carrying lesbian who marched, celebrated, demonstrated and testified many times in Washington D.C. and locally, I have witnessed and experienced both pride in the movement and deep unrelenting prejudice against our community. When I think of Brandeis as a place where we can improve our “structural resilience” I have a few ideas but first I want to acknowledge that Brandeis has made great strides over the last few years with the creation and leadership of the Gender and Sexuality Center and continued investments in an array of student, staff and faculty groups and activities. If it hasn’t happened yet, I would like to see Brandeis participate in the Campus Pride Index —a national accountability tool used by hundreds of university and college campuses to “come out as LGBTQ friendly” ensuring a sense of belonging and a measured commitment to continuous improvement (campuspride.org). When last documented (not sure of the date) Brandeis got a 3.5 on a scale of 5. Not bad but could improve! The index provides criteria in several domains including: policy inclusion; support and institutional commitment; academic life; student life; campus safety; residential life; counseling and health; recruitment and retention. I would like to see Brandeis shine next year among Campus Pride’s “best of the best!” [In the] meantime I look forward to teaching my related course at the Heller School in the Spring: LGBTQ+ Justice: A History of Pride, Prejudice, and Policy in the United States.
Susan P. Curnan is the Florence G. Heller Associate Professor of the Practice, founding Chair of the MPP Concentration in Environmental Justice and Executive Director of the Center for Youth and Communities at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management.
Hallie Kamosky ‘23, PARC
Students and administrators alike have made remarkable efforts to support those affected by domestic violence on campus, nonetheless there is still much work to be done. Although domestic violence often occurs on an interpersonal level, it is exacerbated by the ideologies that undergird our community and society. As individuals we can work to hold ourselves, the people around us and the systems we participate in accountable when any type of violence occurs, especially to those whose identities are often marginalized and erased. In not enabling violent behavior, no matter how covert, we work to break cycles of violence proactively. Within our school, advocating for increased access to advocacy, mental health and legal services that are suited to the needs of those with intersecting identities is integral to fostering a safer and more inclusive community. Beyond Brandeis, our government on a local, state and federal level must pass legislation that protects individuals from domestic violence. For example, Connecticut recently passed “Jennifer’s Law” which includes coercion as a form of domestic violence. Bills such as this bring visibility and legitimacy to less overt forms of violence, and more must be done to eliminate the barriers to justice that are currently present for many.
Hallie Kamosky is a Violence Prevention Educator at the Prevention, Advocacy and Resource Center (PARC), and a member of the Sexual Violence Student Advisory Council (SVSAC).