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Student discusses domestic violence

| Monday, October 3, 2016

As part of Saint Mary’s Justice Friday series, senior Katie Dwyer spoke about domestic violence Friday. She discussed the prevalence of domestic violence in America, relating her personal experience with such violence during her presentation.

Dwyer began her presentation with an explanation as to why her PowerPoint was purple. She said purple was the color of domestic violence awareness and that October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“The reason why I decided to do this on the brink of October is because October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence is defined as violence or aggressive behavior in the home, and it typically involves the abuse of a spouse or partner,” Dwyer said. 

Dwyer said she began learning about domestic violence in high school, through her life skills teacher.

“I had this amazing teacher. Her name was Ms. Triplett. She was the nicest, softest spoken, most generous and caring teacher I ever had. She taught a number of classes that I took in high school. And one of them will always stand out in my mind, it was called ‘Life Skills,’” Dwyer said.

“Triplett, or Trip — everyone called her Trip — was also my neighbor. I started babysitting her children, and I got to know her family very well. Soon she wasn’t Triplett to me anymore, she was Sue,”  Dwyer said.

Dwyer said the same strong, independent woman that she grew to admire became a victim of domestic violence.

“Last year on Oct. 17, her husband murdered her as she tried leaving her home, and then he killed himself,” Dwyer said. “To this day I don’t know what went wrong. Suddenly they were having issues, then they were divorcing and then she was leaving. And then we were burying her. I do know that was not what she deserved.”

Dwyer said her goal is to raise awareness about domestic violence to young women everywhere.

“My point here, my reason for standing up here talking to you, is to stress to you how important it is to not let this be you. She knew what the signs were, knew how to get out and still did not make it out. Reach out. Ask for help. Resources are not just there for you to be aware of them — they’re there to be utilized if you should ever need them,” Dwyer said. 

Dwyer said domestic violence is seen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a serious and preventable health risk that affects millions of Americans.

“You could be living with this person, you could be married to this person, you could just be dating this person,” Dwyer said. “Or you could’ve been formerly dating this person. Intimate partner violence can occur in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. And in some cases women can be the perpetrators. However, women are more likely to be victimized and men are more likely to be the perpetrators.”

Dwyer said physical violence is the most well-known form of intimate partner violence, but there are several other kinds of violence as well.

“[Physical violence] is absolutely not the only kind of violence that can be asserted in an intimate partner relationship. There’s also psychological aggression, which includes verbal abuse, [and] sexual violence. And there is a general misconception that sexual violence cannot occur in an ongoing long-lasting relationship,” Dwyer said. 

Statistics show women who are physically assaulted by intimate partners averaged 6.9 physical assaults during the relationship, Dwyer said.

Dwyer said she is still heartbroken from the death of Triplett, but she will continue to advocate and raise awareness for domestic violence in the hopes that she can prevent similar endings.

“I will always be heartbroken that Sue didn’t make it out of her [situation],” Dwyer said. “My heart breaks for me, for her two beautiful kids that she left behind, and my heart breaks for all her former students, who loved her just like I did, and all her future students who will now never get to be taught by her.

“But if I can help change the outcome for just one person, then I know that her fight against domestic violence would not have been for nothing.”

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About Gina Twardosz

Gina Twardosz is a senior English Writing and Communication Studies double major at Saint Mary's College. She's the co-editor of the Investigative Unit, a Saint Mary's social media liaison, and she occasionally writes for SMC News and Scene. Gina is a tried and true Midwesterner and yes, she does say "ope" often.

Contact Gina