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VPSA Blog: October 25, 2018


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Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October 25, 2018

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Every month is an opportunity to learn how to prevent interpersonal violence, but this month is an especially important moment to shine a light on this problem. One way I’d like to address interpersonal violence this month is by reintroducing you to two Howard staff members who are integral to interpersonal violence prevention and response on campus.


In healthy relationships, partners are patient and thoughtful, not rude of self-seeking. Healthy relationships promote healthy living!
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Dr. Akosoa McFadgion is the Director of the Interpersonal Violence Prevention Program (IVPP). I asked her to describe some fundamental aspects of interpersonal violence.

Kenneth Holmes (KH): What are some warning signs that a partner may be abusive?

Dr. Akosoa McFadgion (AM): Some warning signs are:

  • Making a partner feel isolated or discouraging them from seeing friends or family;
  • Controlling who their partner sees, where they go, and what they do; and
  • Embarrassing their partner or putting them down.

KH: Is it possible for a person who has never been physically harmed to be in an abusive relationship even if they’ve never been physically injured?

AM: Absolutely! Most of the signs are not physical in nature at all. Abuse is used to sustain a climate of power and control. That power and control are often planted using self-defeating thinking that promotes insecurity. For example, someone experiencing abuse may think: “If I did ‘xyz’ then my partner wouldn’t be abusive. So, it must be my fault.” That is self-defeating language.

KH: What can students do if they are in an abusive relationship?

AM: If they feel unsafe or fear leaving the relationship, they should have a safety plan in place before leaving. The IVPP office can help students with safety planning. If they want to talk about it, they can go to the counseling center or the IVPP office.

KH: Why do people stay in abusive relationships?

AM: The abusive relationship is a pattern of controlling behaviors. This pattern, while dangerous, is still predictable. Victims often fear leaving because they do not know what the abusive partner will do if they leave. They do however understand or know what the abusive partner will do if they stay.

Many times, it is unsafe to leave. Abusers often threaten family members and friends if the victim tries to get out of the relationship; so they stay.

Sometimes there is a sense of hope that the partner will return to their “normal, non-abusive” self, the way they were when they first met.

KH: How should a healthy relationship look?

AM: The guiding question we tell students to ask is this: do you feel that you can approach your partner about a particular issue without fear that they will get upset, lash out, argue, or make you feel wrong for expressing how you feel? If not, it’s likely an unhealthy relationship.

In healthy relationships:

  • There is no record kept of wrongs;
  • Partners are patient;
  • Partners are thoughtful;
  • There is no jealousy or envy;
  • Partners are not rude or self-seeking;
  • Partners encourage independence and identities are not tied to another person;
  • Partners are supportive of each other’s goals and dreams; and

Healthy relationships promote healthy living!


We need to understand that sexual misconduct of any type creates a barrier to full accessing educational opportunities.
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Leslie T. Annexstein, Esquire, is the new Director of the Title IX Office. I asked her a few questions about how we address sexual misconduct on campus.

Kenneth Holmes (KH): What is your philosophy about addressing sexual misconduct on a college campus?

Leslie Annexstein, Esquire (LA): As the Title IX Director, I view sexual misconduct as part of the larger umbrella of sex discrimination, which encompasses all forms of sexual harassment, hostile environment, and sexual violence. We need to understand that sexual misconduct of any type creates a barrier to fully accessing educational opportunities. We must work together to educate ourselves, be responsive to individuals who have been impacted by sexual misconduct, and hold individuals responsible for their actions. This work requires effort by every member of our community. Together, we can create a healthy campus culture and climate, eradicating sexual misconduct.

KH: What initiatives do you most look forward to implementing at Howard?

LA: Because the Title IX Office cannot do its work in a vacuum, I want to build deeper and more meaningful collaborations with a variety of stakeholders across the campus community. An essential component of the Title IX Office is to have an effective complaint process that provides appropriate responses and remedies. I look forward to strengthening that part of our work. I am also excited to help develop education and training programs that will move us towards the ideal goal of a campus culture that is free from all forms of sexual misconduct.

KH: How can students best offer feedback to improve the Title IX process?

LA: I am interested in meeting with student representatives to learn about the concerns or questions students have regarding the role of the Title IX Office and our mandate. I would also like to hear ideas from students about what trainings they feel they need from the Title IX Office and which modes of communication they find most useful. One idea I have is to develop a Title IX Student Advisory group that would assist the Title IX Office in understanding current student concerns and help focus our training for students.

View more resources for interpersonal violence prevention.



What have you done this month to increase awareness of domestic violence?
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