Every night of Patricia Smith’s marriage was spent in fear for her life. The constant rapes and beatings led to numerous attempts to escape her physically abusive husband. But it took eight painful years before she could leave the man she loved before she feared.
Smith is among many women who have fallen victim to domestic violence. Within the United States, one of every four American women will experience violence by an intimate partner during her lifetime, according to statistics compiled by the Feminist Majority Foundation.
Today she is free from the confinements of her once controlling husband. Smith, a survivor and Refuge House training & technical assistant, testified to her life’s tribulations in hopes to arouse student consciousness at a domestic violence seminar.
The seminar was hosted by the Young Women’s Council in conjunction with the Alpha Xi chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi.
“The seminar was held to raise awareness of sexual and domestic violence among FAMU students,” said Sandy Jean-Philippe, 20, a third year criminal justice student from Miami and president of Young Women’s Council.
Jean-Philippe witnessed the beating of a fellow female student after a party one evening. She asked herself, “What should anyone witnessing this type of event do in this situation?” This question prompted her to hold an open discussion and informational about domestic and sexual abuse.
According to “Sister, I’m Sorry”, a powerful video presented at the seminar, 29 percent of all violence against women is committed by an intimate partner. Of those victimized by an intimate partner, 85 percent are women and 15 percent are men. In other words, women are 5 to 8 times more likely than men to be victimized by someone they know.
Boyfriends, husbands and even fathers are responsible for many women’s verbal, emotional and physical abuse. The video was a compilation of women’s testimonies and men’s apologetic poems. The underlying message was to acknowledge there are several aspects of abuse, not just physical, that affect everyone involved.
“Many people are aware of domestic violence but not the full extent of it,” said Smith.
Rape is also another form of abuse. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics one of every six women will be raped during her lifetime. A brutal act such as rape can happen to anyone, anywhere.
“It’s not just the young ladies in short skirts, walking down dark alleys or climbing in cars with several men. It can occur in what you may believe is the safety of your home,” said guest speaker, Heather Cox.
A man she recognized sexually assaulted Cox in her own home. After the incident Cox said she blamed herself. She said it was her network of friends, family and counselor that gave her strength and built her self-confidence. She emphasized the importance of building a strong support system.
The accounts of both Smith and Cox sparked the interest of the majority male audience. “No matter what a woman says or does there is no excuse to hit her,” said Brian Bowman, 19, a third-year Business student from California.
There were valid points mentioned from both genders. However, there was a common understanding that there is no justification for violence from either sex.
“Its an issue that’s not going to go away. In the past, these seminars have attracted majority females. I think the male turn out is a positive sign that change is to come,” said Jean-Philippe.
The domestic violence seminar, held on Tuesday evening, had a successful turn out and generated controversial conversation.
“I believe the message was well received,” said Sherley Pierre, 19, a third year business student from Miami.
“It was interesting to discuss the female perspective in comparison to many male point of views.”