This past Tuesday the Grace Smith House, located in Poughkeepsie, hosted a fundraiser and award ceremony for those who have helped thousands of men, women, and children who have experienced domestic abuse and violence. The event focused around some community members and Grace Smith House Employees who have made a huge difference in helping abuse victims get out of dire situations and start anew.
The Ceremony recognized some hard working members of both the Grace House and supporting Poughkeepsie business’s including Mark Dennis, of Hopewell Junction, Peter Maher, of Hopewell Junction and Jennis Adams, who was recognized for her 26 years of service at the Grace Smith House. In addition to the honorees, the crowd was introduced to the topic of domestic violence, through viewing a TED talk that got the whole house tearing up.
The fundraiser included a few lucky Marist students who got to witness and learn about the great things the home does, and broaden their knowledge about domestic violence on college campuses. Lily Hickey, one of the students who attended the fundraiser said, “It was really eye opening to hear the statistics. I had no idea how common it was is, it makes you look around and wonder who in the room this may be happening to.” The statistic that Hickey is referring to is that 1 in 5 woman experience domestic violence while at a college or university.
While Marist provides policies, as well as instructions on how to handle sexual assault, it is unclear of whether or not these policies give enough education about domestic abuse or violence within a relationship. The policy states “Marist College prohibits sexually aggressive behavior. Students in violation of these standards will be subject to disciplinary action, including possible dismissal from school. In addition, violators may be subject to criminal charges”. The website also includes indications and advice if you are experiencing “Dating Abuse”. While these aspects are a positive step it seems that more awareness could be spread to students of all ages.
While the Grace Smith house Website is listed as a hotline to call in Marist emergency resources, it does not seem that the campus has much knowledge about whom they could talk to about abuse. Marist student Kaitin Bond explained that her class had had a large discussion about sexual assault and how commonly it goes unrecognized. She said “We were listening to a guest speaker give us all these statistics and stories, and it was just mind blowing. I hadn’t known what was available to me and if I had been in a dangerous situation I honestly don’t know how I would have handled it.” Kaitlin’s comments coincide much with the debate of violence and sexual assault on college campuses. Is it being ignored? And if it isn’t is there enough education on how to help oneself when in danger?
According to the U.S. Department of Education data analysis tool, Marist has had four incidents of sexual assault since 2012, and that doesn’t include instances that may go unreported. Sexual assault, and domestic violence are obscenely common among campuses and without proper education or awareness, students can be left feeling alone, afraid and without options. Is educating people purely through the Marist website enough? Is there more that Marist could be doing to spread awareness about sexual assault on campus? As Marist College grows, and college sexual assault and violent cases become more relevant in the news, it will be up to the school to progress in the proper stages of educating and spreading awareness amongst it’s student.