October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and an opportunity to learn more about preventing domestic violence and supporting survivors.
New College faculty member, Dr. Denise Hines studies bystander interventions and prevention programs for sexual assault and domestic violence with the goal of raising awareness of under-recognized survivor groups and preventing all instances of assault and violence.
Hines offers guidance to students based on her research on bystander intervention. “My advice is that if you think you see a sexual assault about to happen, try to intervene in some way. Typically, distraction interventions are the best, as opposed to directly confronting someone you think may be about to perpetrate a sexual assault or an act of domestic violence,” Hines explains, “Do something to distract or diffuse the situation to allow the potential victim to get out of it. Find a way for the victim to escape the situation.”
Hines also stresses the importance of intervening after an assault or act of violence has occurred. “Someone might come up to you and say I was sexually assaulted last night or my significant other is being abusive to me. Our programs teach students how to respond to those situations,” says Hines. “One of the most important things is to believe the victim and reassure them it’s not their fault. Offer them resources that they can reach out to for help or offer to help them reach out to any of those resources. It’s also important to stress it’s their option of where to go and what to do. In those situations, we also stress, that--as a bystander--you are not the judge and jury,” says Hines. “It is not your responsibility to find out what all the facts are because that can lead to [the victim] feeling like they did something wrong or that they deserved what happened to them.”
Hines’ research particularly focuses on raising awareness of under-recognized victims and developing more resources for these survivors. Under-recognized victims include populations who have traditionally been overlooked in intervention and prevention efforts, including male victims of female-perpetrated violence, violence within same-sex relationships, and victims who are sexual minorities or gender minorities. “Some of the things we’ve noticed in our research, particularly on male victims of female perpetrated violence, is that for a variety of reasons they are less able to get help. As a result, they stay in these abusive relationships for a longer period of time. And for those victims who have children, the children are staying in these very dysfunctional abusive relationships for longer than children of female victims of male-perpetrated violence,” says Hines who underscores the impact on children who are suffering and being exposed to trauma.