KOKOMO, Ind. — Education is crucial to breaking the cycle of domestic violence.
Tracy Martino, executive director of the Family Service Association of Howard County (FSA), knows this first-hand from her own life. She shared her experiences during the annual Not On Our Campus, Not in Our Community rally and Angel Walk April 19, at Indiana University Kokomo.
She credits the campus, where she earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees, for helping her make a better life for herself after growing up in an abusive home.
“When I was in elementary and high school, the main goal was survival, so education wasn’t a priority,” Martino said. “With my education, I broke the cycle of poverty for my family. This I owe to the teachers, faculty, and fellow students who inspired me and believed in me when no one else did.”
The walk raised more than $15,000 for the FSA’s domestic violence shelter, which assists women, men, and children who have fled from abusive homes. With an annual budget of more than $800,000 per year, Martino appreciates those who participated.
“Your support makes a huge difference,” Martino said. “Domestic violence is one of the most destructive crimes facing our society. The damaging effects of violence among spouses, family members, and people in intimate relationships are profound.”
Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke, who is president of the FSA Board of Directors, is proud the campus partners with the organization on the educational and fund raising effort.
“A lot of our students, faculty, and staff learn so much about this very serious problem through this event,” she said.
Brittany Monroe, a domestic violence survivor, shared her story, reminding the approximately 400 people attending why this event is important.
She left her abuser once when he promised he had changed, but after she returned, he progressed to beating and choking her, and told their young son she deserved it.
She finally sought help after he stabbed her with a knife, and stole her bankcard and car. She filed a police report and, with help from co-workers, gained assistance from the domestic violence shelter.
It has been more than a year since she left, but she and her son are still recovering from the effects.
“I still have nightmares, and I struggle with anxiety,” she said. “We are both receiving therapy, and it is helping us move forward. Each day I grow a little stronger, and I feel braver. I have learned my son and I are valuable, and we deserve happiness. We smile more, and we laugh.
“I have scars from him hurting me. They are hard to look at, but they are a reminder that we survived.”
Senior Alysa Caudill, who helped plan the rally, said education is a critical component to preventing both domestic violence and sexual abuse.
“This is an issue that affects people our age, people we know,” she said. “We’re creating awareness of how prevalent domestic violence is. People know it occurs, but they may not be aware of how often it does.”
Health sciences students contributed to the evening, with educational displays about workplace violence, sexual abuse prevention, and consent.
“A lot of people think of violence as something a stranger does,” Caudill said. “Nine times out of 10, it’s someone you know and trust. That comes to a complete shock to most students.”
Natalie Barker said many students are surprised to learn that domestic violence goes beyond physical abuse.
“It’s not just getting beaten,” she said. “It includes verbal abuse, isolation, manipulation, and other factors. We need to raise awareness for everything. Domestic violence will never end unless we talk about it and get it out there and raise awareness.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.