Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Lecture discourages victim blaming in cycles of violence

Published: October 17, 2014
Section: News

On Tuesday Oct. 14, the Women’s Studies Research Center held a discussion titled “Ending Cycles of Violence.” The discussion was led by Jessica Hollander, director of prevention programs at REACH, a non-profit organization in Boston that provides support to the survivors of domestic abuse and violence. The talk focused on trauma and how it impacts the mind and body. Hollander also talked about preventing cycles of violence and how trauma impacts the communities in which it occurs.

Hollander explained that the process of recovering and healing from any trauma is one that often happens in four steps. Among these steps is one she referred to as “feel our feelings.” Hollander explained that this process is not easy, especially in cultures where showing emotion is not encouraged.

“We do a lot to try not to feel our feelings … For a lot of young men that I work with, feeling sad is not something they feel they have access to,” Hollander said.

Allowing oneself to feel sad or any other emotion that might be present after a traumatic experience, according to Hollander, is essential to the healing process. She discussed the importance of letting survivors know that they are supported. She noted that often survivors are met with blame and disbelief.

“People should have a supportive other, someone who they could tell that experience to and get a believing and supportive response,” she said.

REACH, which stands for Refuge, Education, Advocacy and Change, provides shelters for the survivors of abuse, as well as a variety of other support services. This includes legal advocacy and assistance finding long-term housing. In addition to their support services, REACH uses educational programs to prevent domestic abuse and advocate for the survivors of domestic abuse.

“Prevention isn’t necessarily saying ‘women look out’”, said Hollander.

The non-profit runs programs like Peers Against Violence (PAVE), which teaches youth about healthy relationships and dating violence prevention, as well as programs like their Survivor Speakers’ Bureau, which trains survivors of domestic abuse to share their experiences with the community.

Hollander discussed her work as a counselor at a rape crisis center in San Francisco. She talked about the importance of letting survivors of rape and domestic abuse know that they are not at fault, while also allowing them to feel whatever they are feeling. She discussed how oftentimes, the family and friends of survivors of rape or domestic abuse will blame the victims, instead of providing the support that they need.

“I wanted to plant a seed that someone out there did not blame them for this,” Hollander explained.

Hollander, who is from Newton, has been working with REACH for a little over a year. While attending American University as an undergraduate, she founded the school’s first Take Back the Night, which has since grown to be the largest Take Back the Night event in Washington, D.C. Before working at REACH, Hollander was the education and outreach coordinator at Casa Myrna, a non-profit that works to end domestic violence. She also worked as the prevention education coordinator and sexual assault counselor at a rape crisis center in San Francisco.

The discussion ended with questions and comments from the audience.