The murder of Kansas University student Jana Mackey five years ago was a reminder to Lawrence residents of the presence of domestic violence in the community.
Mackey was found dead in her ex-boyfriend Adolfo Garcia-Nunez's house July 3, 2008. Garcia-Nunez committed suicide a few days later after being arrested in New Jersey in connection with Mackey's death
A women’s rights activist and volunteer for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, Mackey didn’t fit the stereotypical profile of domestic-violenct victims — she was educated and wanted women to be empowered — and her death prompted the discussion of who is affected by domestic violence.
In Her Shoes
10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Myths, Facts, Causes, and Effects of Domestic Violence
9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Safety Planning with Survivors of Domestic Violence
9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Becca Burns, Willow Domestic Violence Center's director of volunteer services, said awareness of domestic violence in Lawrence has waned in the years since Mackey's murder, but the number of victims and survivors has not.
“It increased awareness for a moment in time,” Burns said. “I think people think it isn’t happening. Traditionally and historically, it’s a hidden problem.”
The center, whose mission is to provide shelter and services for survivors of domestic violence, averages 1,600 calls to its hotline every year, and at any given moment is home to about 30 women and children in its safe shelter. Most days, Executive Director Joan Schultz said, the shelter is at capacity.
Because domestic violence isn’t a highly visible problem for communities, the center uses education and outreach as a way to remind residents of the threat.
“The Willow has made it one of our priorities to talk to the community and direct the community discussion about the domestic violence, because it is happening to an increasing amount of women,” Schultz said.
Schultz said one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. For men, the statistic is one in 10, and for gay or bisexual-identifying men, it is two in five.
“At some time, each member of the community will come in contact with a victim, but to enhance the community’s awareness of domestic violence increases the likelihood of someone supporting a domestic violence survivor and knowing where to send them,” Burns said.
As part of its community outreach and in an effort to educate community members, Willow Domestic Violence Center is offering training sessions on domestic-violence awareness to the public this week.
Tuesday it hosted Domestic Violence 101, a basic class to provide participants an idea of what constitutes domestic violence and why it happens. Scheduled Wednesday is an interactive activity called In Her Shoes, in which participants will be given information about a person and their relationship, and then be offered two courses of action. For example, if the information says a person is being verbally abused by her partner, her choices may be to either tell a friend or call the center. The participant will pick an option and follow a path based on that choice. Each decision will lead the participant to another set of options to help them better understand the challenges and barriers a survivor must face during and after an abusive relationship.
Thursday’s session is Myths, Facts, Causes and Effects of Domestic Violence. Burns said that a lot of common knowledge about domestic violence may not be accurate, and this session is meant to challenge societal perceptions.
The final session, Safety Planning with Survivors of Domestic Violence, is scheduled for Friday. Burns said this workshop is one of the most important for community members, because of the likelihood that they know someone who is in an abusive relationship. It will teach participants how to support and develop a safety plan for a domestic-violence victim.
“The most dangerous time in their life isn’t when the victim is with his or her partner, but after the victim leaves,” Burns said. “Many are so isolated that just someone saying ‘I know this is happening, here’s the Willow’s number’ is the lifeline they need.”
The sessions are free and open to anyone in the community. If you are interested in attending one or more of the workshops, contact Burns at 785-331-2034 ext. 104 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.