Intimate support for intimate violence: Women’s Center holds session on recognizing partner abuse

By Geneva Nodland

We all know that love can hurt—but sometimes love can hurt us on purpose.

On Oct. 23, the Women’s Center held a brown bag meeting to discuss a heavy but important topic—intimate partner violence. While attendance was small at just five, the room offered a close, personal setting.

The organizer of the event, Dana Bisignani, is the Women’s Center Coordinator. Bisignani creates programs run through the Women’s Center in order to educate students, faculty and staff on gender equality and other forms of oppression. She is also involved with the Sexual Violence Prevention Committee, along with sexual violence education subcommittees.

Photo by Katie Adams

“I’m always interested in doing that work (informing on intimate partner violence) and on educating the campus community about how we can prevent intimate partner abuse, have healthier and happier relationships and talk about consent,” Bisignani said.

Monday’s program included a group activity, education on warning signs, and information on different sources people can go to for help on campus and around the community.

In the activity, the attendees had to decide in their groups whether scenarios described a victim or an abuser. They decided many of the scenarios could be under both victim and abuser, proving how important it is for everyone to know the warning signs of abuse.

Nora Bartel is a freshman at MSUM and works at the Women’s Center.

“Seeing direct examples of how people in abusive relationships behave—whether it’s what they do to the other person or to protect themselves—really opens up your eyes and makes you aware of the fact that it’s not black and white,” Bartel said.

Following the activity, Bisignani gave a detailed presentation explaining the different warning signs for people involved in an abusive relationship. She explained that the violence can either be mental or physical; some included emotional/psychological abuse, financial abuse and sexual abuse.

Abusers may do or be the following:

  • Intense early in relationships
  • Accuse and demand information of partner
  • Isolate partner from other relationships
  • Stalk partner and show up when they know it’s inconvenient
  • Demand victim change something about themselves
  • Criticize and humiliate victim
  • Minimize person’s worth by belittling and ridiculing them
  • Blame the victim and overreact to their actions
  • Cause victim anxiety and fear on a regular basis

Photo by Katie Adams
Women’s Center Coordinator Dana Bisignani addresses the audience at the intimate violence seminar.

At the end of the program, Bisignani explained how people can help victims they know. They can listen without judgment and reassure them it is not their fault. They must allow the victims to have self-determination, informing them on their options rather than commanding them where to go. Bisignani also stressed that in these situations, one should never retaliate on a victim’s behalf. This will only cause further problems.

Bisignani thinks there will be another educational meeting on the topic in the future. In the meantime, Bartel will continue to look for the signs listed in the training.

“Abuse looks a lot (of) different ways in lots of different relationships,” Bartel said. “Events like this make you see and feel that people have the knowledge to see these warning signs and look out for each other.”

The campus has resources for anyone who is in an intimate partner abuse situation or knows of someone who is. They can be found at the Title IX Office, the Hendrix Clinic & Counseling Center, the Women’s Center and the Rainbow Dragon Center.

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