Ending the silence: MU men speak out against domestic violence

Shalee Rogney, Reporter

Domestic violence continues to be a problem in the United States. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1 in 4 women (24.3 percent) and 1 in 7 men (13.8 percent) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of physical violence by an intimate partner in his or her lifetime.

Domestic violence becomes a larger problem every year, both on and off college campuses. Marshall University and the Women’s Studies Program created a campaign to show it is not just women who speak out against violence.

MU Men Against Domestic Violence is a gateway for men across the Marshall campus to speak out against domestic violence. Several men from prominent positions throughout the university participated, including Stephen J. Kopp, Marshall president, Robert Bookwalter, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Eric Del Chrol, chair of classics and sexuality studies, Keith Beard, clinical psychology chair, Steve Hensley, dean of students and Duncan Waugaman, Student Government Association president.

Hensley said many papers come across his desks concerning a violation of student conduct, but once in a while, a paper comes across his desk that involves domestic violence or assault. One such incident involved a new student, who was a young mother, he found her a safe place at a domestic violence shelter in Ashland, Kentucky, to escape her abuser.

When he began the process of helping this young student, Hensley called Branches, domestic violence shelter, to see if it could help the student, but the shelter was full. This sent up a red flag for Hensley.

“It just alerted me to the fact that sometimes we don’t hear of incidents of domestic violence, but they’re there,” Hensley said. “Just by virtue of the fact that our shelter is turning away students and people, it lets us know the scope of the problem. It’s so easy to blame the victim. If there were easy answers, then students would have already figured it out.”

Hensley said he believes it is important for everyone at the university to speak out against domestic violence to show the victims there is a light on the other side, and there are ways of escaping the abuse.

“It is important for men, and people of the university, to speak out and let everyone know that it’s something we feel strongly about,” Hensley said. “You didn’t make them do it. You didn’t cause them to become violent. I would tell people to have faith in themselves and not to take the blame when there’s no blame out there.”

Waugaman used his position as a voice for the students as he spoke out against domestic violence. Waugaman said he is encouraging all victims of domestic abuse to speak out without fear because there are a lot of people who will be there with open arms to offer support.

“There are more people behind you than in front of you,” Waugaman said. “You are not alone. Just because you step out does not mean it’s going to be just you. You’re going to have people supporting you. There’s many people here at Marshall University that can not only help you, but support you in bettering yourself.”

Chrol has a very personal connection to the domestic violence. He was a victim of an abusive relationship in his time at Rutgers University. During the relationship, Chrol was viciously attacked twice.

“After the second time, I decided to give up,” Chrol said. “In retrospect, after the first time she attacked me, I really should have left, but I felt like it was my job to stay because I loved to be with her and to help her through a difficult situation.”

Chrol began to see his love for his girlfriend would not solve her mental issues. When he realized she needed to seek therapeutic and medical help, he decided it would be better for the relationship to end.

“I did love her and I really cared about her,” Chrol said. “I figured if she was sick, I didn’t want to run from her when she was sick, but there came a point when I realized I couldn’t heal her. I wasn’t the help that she needed.”

Chrol said he encourages women and other victims to take that first step and get themselves out of a dangerous situation. There are many organizations on Marshall’s campus that are there to support women in crisis.

“You don’t have to be scared,” Chrol said. “There are social protections, legal protections. If you’re in an abusive relationship, I think that even if you can’t see your way out right now, just taking those first steps—contacting the help line, contacting the police if you need to—will help you get out of the relationship.”

Rebuilding after the destructive relationship was an upward struggle for Chrol. He was engaged in a battle of finding out who he was as a person that ultimately helped him realize the kind of person he wanted to be in a relationship.

“I think that a good relationship has both partners working together, filling in each others gaps, helping each other out,” Chrol said. “But when violence comes into it, it degrades the relationship.”

Shalee Rogney can be contacted at [email protected]