Students chattering about the latest celeb gossip soon changed to stark silence when Professor Candice Bosse-Torres walked into her Women and Gender Studies class and wrote the words that transform her class’s life: “Change of Topic: Domestic Violence.”
“I decided to talk about domestic violence because it actually was something that I personally have been affected by,” Bosse-Torres said.
When Bosse-Torres was in college she dated a football player, she said. Things started off like most relationships: exciting and new; but then changed slowly with abuse. First it was only verbal violence, then it escalated to physical. Bosse-Torres remembered the incident that broke off their relationship.
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She said she was at a friend’s house with her boyfriend when she saw this guy she always saw at the gym. She turned to her boyfriend and said, “Your friend has been working out a lot.” She continued, saying her boyfriend turned to her with jealousy and threw Bosse-Torres on the ground and began kicking her. She claimed the house was full of 55 men who only watched but did not intervene. Her boyfriend had broken half her ribs before three men off the street held him so Bosse-Torres could get away. Bosse-Torres ran to her dorm where she was then rushed to the hospital, she said. Her boyfriend was soon prosecuted and convicted.
Bosse-Torres said she thought about this subject when recently she heard a friend had an experience with domestic violence. Bosse-Torres said she felt anger and the need to inform her students that this is not something that should be tolerated and, at no point, is it ever their fault it happened.
“A lot of the time, women who are abused have low self esteem and believe that they deserve it or believe that they did something to cause it when that is absolutely not the case,” Bosse-Torres said.
Bosse-Torres presented the question to her class, “What is domestic violence? Do you know of somebody who has been abused or in an abusive relationship?” Most of her class, according to Bosse-Torres, knew of someone. She then continued by talking about the value each and every woman has and that the abuse is absolutely abhorrent and needs to be reported and stopped.
“It begins with us. What I have always told my students is what I want you to take from this class is using your voice. Your voice gives you agency which gives you power,” she said.
According to Bosse-Torres, no matter what the topic or theory, she always tries to relate what she teaches in class to her own life. Just studying a theory does not mean the theory is understood, but relating the theory to something personal or graspable can help put things in perspective.
“She’s always shared her stories during class and told us the things about her life which I think make it really real and relatable. It’s not just some teacher who’s preaching about things in the front of the classroom. She’s been there, she’s lived it,” junior Danielle Clark said.
That day in class, according to Bosse-Torres, her students looked worried, intrigued, and confused when Bosse-Torres wrote the change of topic on the board. After Bosse-Torres told her story, she said her students’ emotions changed to anger, and some were even scared to talk. According to Bosse-Torres, near the end, her students felt sadness, concern, and care.
Bosse-Torres said she believes this was one of the most productive classes she has taught. “Productive in a sense that this is something they are going to take away for the rest of their lives. Whether they remain single, whether they are married to a man, to a woman, whether they have children, this is something that is of utmost importance. To realize that they have value and that it is never okay to lay a hand on anyone,” Bosse-Torres said.
According to Bosse-Torres, her students see her as someone they can always talk to. “I’ve come to care about her as a person because she is so able to talk about thing to her class so deeply. She is somebody I would be able to talk to,” sophomore Kelly DuBois said.
Bosse-Torres also said it is of great importance that she develops a relationship with her students where they don’t just see her as a professor but as someone they can talk to and get advice from. Bosse-Torres said she likes to get to know her students on a personal level. When class is over she is not done with being their professor.
“She is such a great professor and I think it’s her personal experience and personal struggles that make her such a great role model and such a great professor,” senior Braelan O’Toole said.
Kaitlyn Coogan can be contacted at email@example.com.