Vigil honors victims of domestic abuse

A group of more than 50 Dartmouth administrators, Hanover residents, professors and students participated in a Speak-Out/Vigil against domestic violence on the Green last night.

People showed their support for the cause through personal stories, readings and song within a circle of candles on the Green, representing a space safe from abuse.

The Speak-Out/Vigil was the culmination of the Women’s Resource Center’s Domestic Violence Awareness Week programming. Giavanna Munafo, director of the Women’s Resource Center, organized the event in order to raise awareness and provide an environment in which victims felt safe to talk about their abuse.

In her opening remarks, Munafo stated, “I hope it can be celebratory in that it honors and gives strength to survivors, and commemorative to the victims and their families.”

One participant read a definition of domestic violence as the abuse of power within a relationship — the desire to control and dominate and the belief that one has the right to do so.

Dean of the College Lee Pelton stressed that domestic violence occurs among all people regardless of age, class, economic background or race. He pointed out that the police departments of Norwich, Vt. and Harlem, N.Y. receive the same number of domestic violence phone calls each year.

“It is important to examine and change underlying social attitudes that excuse domestic violence,” Pelton said.

Munafo also discussed how domestic violence affects Dartmouth students. Although she has been working at the College for only two months, Munafo said she has already heard a “handful” of stories of women who come from families torn by domestic violence. Several students emphasized Munafo’s point in telling their own stories of abuse in their families.

Heather Charles ’98 said she felt that these personal accounts were the most emotional part of the Speak-out/Vigil. She said, “I thought it was empowering — there were some very brave people out there, and it was awesome that they could share their experiences with us.”

Throughout the evening, the Rockapellas, a female a cappella group, performed inspirational and commemorative songs about strength, especially the strength of women. At the suggestion of one student, participants on the Green sang “Lean on Me” to conclude the event.

Michelle Seldin ’95, co-chair of Dartmouth’s Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Organization, said, “I think domestic violence is one of our community’s most powerful issues, and it is important for me to make sure that it is no longer ignored and that the women who suffer are not silenced.”

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