PACT Shows How Escalation Leads to Violence

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PACT Shows How Escalation Leads to Violence

Julia Gray, Social Media Editor/Art Staff

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         Sad. Disgusted. Heartbreaking. Frustrated. These were the words used after the audience at Peer Advisory Council Title XI (PACT)’s Escalation and Abusive Relationships workshop watched “Escalation”, a film made by the OneLove foundation that covers a fictional abusive relationship. The workshop, which took place in the CUB Garage, aimed to educate the student audience on how to recognize and prevent signs of abuse or assault, so showing this film created a poignant and open forum for a discussion about unhealthy relationships.

          OneLove is the organization that created “Escalation” and is a foundation dedicated to spreading the word about violent relationships. The film follows the relationship between Paige Long and Chase Parker. The beginning of their relationship is sweet and joyful, bur later builds into a violent, emotionally and physically abusive relationship culminating in Paige’s death.

         This film is often used for workshops like the one PACT hosted to educate audiences on subtle red flags that can signify an abusive relationship. Researching and being aware of these signs can help people get the help they need and even save lives. After showing the film, PACT facilitated a discussion covering all of the aspects of the unhealthy relationship portrayed and how it could have been helped. Cookies were supplied as well as a counselor from Griffith Hall in case anybody needed in-the-moment help. The director of Title IX on campus, Lyda Costello Kiser was also there to oversee the workshop and listen in on the discussion.

         Ms.Kiser is the Executive Director and Coordinator for Title IX at Stetson University for the DeLand & Celebration campus as well as the Stetson University Law School in Gulfport. She has a background working to prevent and deal with violent relationships ranging from sexual assault to stalking, elder abuse, intimate partner violence, and more. 

         “I’m very comfortable with both the topic [of violent relationships] and their needs, and helping people work through issues they may have while they’re trying to be in school and while they’re trying to work,” Kiser said. “What I really like about it is that it is an important tool to help you have a safe campus and a safe place for people to work, to come to school, and to come visit.”.

         Having worked at a college in Virginia and now at Stetson, Kiser has had lots of experience working with students from different backgrounds and hometowns. “When you’re working in higher education environment, you have the opportunity to help people learn who maybe never learned what good relationships look like, and what appropriate relationships look like. And that’s important,” she said. “We’re lucky at Stetson to have a lot of resources right here on campus: counseling and also to have WellConnect people that you can call any time of the day or night.”

         The Me Too movement has had a growing impact on society, helping victims of all gender identities, socioeconomic statuses, races, ages, and sexualities be able to come out and talk about their experiences with violence, assault, and more. Having worked in this field for many years, Kiser has noticed somewhat of a change throughout time, specifically in today’s politically charged society: “One of the things that I think is a really positive thing is that people report now a lot more than they used to. And that’s important because if you don’t know what the problem is, you can’t do anything to help and you definitely can’t fix it,” Kiser said. “And so sometimes people say, ‘Oh, we have so many more reports’ and they think that means that this stuff didn’t use to happen. That’s not true at all. The truth is if you have the right atmosphere and people report, you can step in. The ultimate goal is you want to prevent things from happening, but you can’t prevent things unless you know kind of what’s going on.”

         This movement can be somewhat polarizing because of false sexual assault reports, victim-blaming, and harsh punishment for the accused. On the topic of the accused, Kiser stated: “I think with the climate that we have, there are people talking about how schools are using Title IX and it’s not fair to the people who are accused. You have to have good processes in place and you have to have due process for everyone. And due process means that everybody has the same rights. They have the ability to be heard and they have the right to have support and they have rights to appeals and you have to have all those things in place,that’s really important. I think the Me Too movement has made people a little more aware, but we’re talking about a major cultural change and it’s going to take at least a full generation before we really can see how effective it’s all been.”

         She views these workshops as very important, because signs of abuse can be overlooked or excused by loved ones. An imbalance of control, seclusion from social groups, and more small markers can slide under the radar because people are not always vigilant about staying aware of them. “A lot of times we all see things and we’re just not sure about it, but we may not have the information or even, or the vocabulary or the understanding to see what we’re seeing…the more you’re aware of, the better off everyone is,” Kiser said. “You’re a better bystander, you’re a better friend. You’re a better colleague in school because safety, is kind of everybody’s issue…With this escalation workshop, the One Love foundation is very focused on the fact that relationships are complicated.” 

         Stetson has multiple organizations and outlets for those in violent relationships, and Kiser applauds the effort she has noticed. She believes that what makes a community positive is faculty, staff, and students who are dedicated to making campus as safe as possible for everybody else. The best part about her job and about working with Title IX and PACT? “[Seeing] people being able to move forward and have a healthy, positive life is the best part of it.,” Kiser said. “Seeing students who have had a hard time make it through the semester or who have been able to graduate like they wanted to graduate. Those are the things that I think are the most fulfilling.”

         If you have noticed something going on with a friend, or if you feel you might be in an unhealthy relationship, you can go to Stetson.edu/report-it or check out Stetson’s Title IX webpage. There’s a report form online, and the Griffith Counseling Center is open to help student needs.