Kayla Barrett

In honor of domestic violence awareness month, Keene State College reached out to remind students of the resources available to them. 

In October of 2019, KSC was awarded $300,000 from the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVAW) to further sexual and domestic violence prevention on campus, according to their website. Megan Grove, a representative from those working with the federal grant from the Office of Violence Against Women, shared her thoughts on the wide-spread need for resources. “We want folks to recognize that people of all genders can experience sexual and relationship violence, and people of all genders can perpetrate sexual and relationship violence.” 

When asked about the resources available to students, Grove shared a lot of the possible choices. “In the Wellness Center we have our medical staff and our confidential counseling staff, and students can come and speak with them,” she said. “The Title IX office is for students to talk about accommodations, options, resources, and then, if students want to pursue formal or informal processes, the Title IX office can help with that. Our community partner Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention (MCVP) is an essential off-campus resource with confidential advocates accessible to our students.”

While a lot of resources on campus are available in person, either through the Wellness Center medical staff or counseling, there are online resources as well. Keene State College used the grant money from the OVAW to create a virtual resource center. This is designed to give students access to help for all sorts of aspects, such as how to assist a friend or how to properly report a case of domestic violence. A lot of contact information is also listed there. This source can be found on the Keene State College website under, “Sexual Violence Prevention Virtual Resource Center,” a name that is slightly misleading, as it can be used for all forms of domestic violence. 

When it comes to the knowledge of said resources on campus, students report ease of access with most things. However, the available help tends to fall into the background of the mind for some. First-year student Turner White explained, “Unless external resources are put right in front of my face, I won’t remember it.” While this is true for some students, when effort is made to find such resources, they are readily available. “I think that with resources like this, they do a pretty good job of putting them out there,” White says. “They have those stickers in the bathroom with phone numbers and offices.” 

For some students, domestic violence seems like a distant concept, something they will never need to worry about. However, domestic violence is an issue that exists within the ages of college students as well. The most common age range for women who are physically abused by their partner is 18-24 years old, and it doesn’t stop there. “I remember a girl in my high school who was in an abusive situation with her boyfriend at the time,” recalled first-year student Justin Nicolas. Anyone can be victimized, and KSC works toward making sure that it can be prevented and minimized as much as possible. 

Support systems for those in domestic abuse situations can extend beyond just friends, including family members as well. When asked about the necessity of resources on campus, one anonymous parent responded, “The students need to know how to recognize abuse, whether physical, mental, or emotional. They need to know they are not to blame.” They continued, “I am very grateful that Keene [State] provides resources and information to its entire student body.” 

Representatives from KSC’s Title IX office Kelli Jo Harper and Jeff Maher are dedicated to making sure students have access to any resources they could possibly need, especially after a traumatic experience. “Our office recognizes that each student’s experience is different and unique to that person,” Maher stated. “We try to provide individualized tailored responses for whatever their needs happen to be.” 

For the typical student, the process begins with a confidential advocate or counselor for their mental health, either on campus through the Wellness Center or in the community through MCVP. The partnership between MCVP has grown tremendously in recent years, and Keene State College has an MCVP representative on campus as of a few weeks ago, rather than strictly downtown. After a student gets in contact with a counselor, Maher explained that it’s up to the student where the process leads from there. “For some students, that could be further supportive measures, or academic and housing accommodations. For other students, it could be a reporting pathway either through the college or the police.”

The Title IX office on campus focuses on giving control to those who come in with domestic or sexual violence concerns, rather than setting a strict plan. Harper explained their system, known as the empowerment model, by stating, “Our role is to provide information and resources to students, so ultimately, they can make well-informed decisions and choices for themselves.” 

The key is that students who come forward for help are given all of the possible options available to them and are left to their own comfort level to pick which best suits their needs. 

For some students, resources on campus are not the most comfortable, and that’s where MCVP comes in. MCVP is a facility located in downtown Keene, an easily walkable distance for any student looking to utilize their resources. They provide all sorts of crisis intervention help, and they also take part in a lot of prevention education in and around campus. “They are willing to speak with friends and family, and provide information on how to help victims of such violence as well,” Harper explained. 

While working with MCVP, Keene State College has gained a lot of insight on how to advise students to help themselves and each other when it comes to domestic and sexual violence. KSC has implemented education programs around campus, with Title IX working with athletic directors to communicate with teams or teaming up with leaders of Greek life. However, Maher hopes that the resources for students in crisis continues to expand and reach as many people as possible. 

In one case, connections with first-year students is a main goal. “Even with the first-year experience that students take, we do strive, as you mentioned, to be really forward facing during the welcome day’s events that happen,” Maher said. 

To further their reach, the Title IX office is looking to connect with students more on social media and to make their services known. Harper and Maher continue to look for new outlets to share information, and are beginning to look into student leadership organizations and creating programs through that. The key information that Harper and Maher wish for students to know is that they, “recognize that the decision to make a report is a personal one, and that we would strive to allow those individuals who choose to come forward to remain in control of the narrative of what they choose to share, and to remain in control of whatever process best suits their needs. We really strive to empower those individuals to make the decisions that best meet their needs, that is infused in all of the work that we do.”

With students being away from home and out of the reach of familiar support systems, the college steps in to make sure the needed help is readily available for anyone at all times. According to Grove, “Students know that we are here for them, and we absolutely believe in student agency. The resources that exist on campus and in the community are to help students in any stage in their process of healing.”

Erin Plummer can be contacted

at eplummer@kscequinox.com

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