Victim Services event decries violence against women
If you were passing through the Student Union on the afternoon of Feb. 12, you might have caught a glimpse of a flash mob with a couple of dozen students advocating for a means to end violence.
Lined up in several rows, students congregated together just north of the Student Union and broke out in dance to “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten, all part of the event known as One Billion Rising.
The annual One Billion Rising event is held to shed light on the one in three women who will be raped or beaten in their lifetime.
“We’re all rising up against violence and saying ‘enough is enough’ and we want to put an end to all of it,” said Lauren Portal, a UCF Victim Services advocate.
This year marks the fourth consecutive year that UCF Victim Services has put on the event, which provides students the opportunity to express themselves through artistic means, such as dancing, to show support for the One Billion Rising mission.
“Dancing shows movement without violence,” Portal said. “You’re on your own, but at the same time we’re all together as a group, where you can express yourself through your body and vision to the words in the song.”
Portal said a few warning signs of dating abuse include isolation, anger and jealousy.
Alumni and current students took to the stage to speak about their own experiences with rape or violence.
Amber Norman, a UCF alumna, heard about One Billion Rising through a colleague who informed her that there would be a creative component to the event. Norman knew then that she had to share her story of childhood abuse.
“I think awareness is the start of anything. And from awareness, comes action,” Norman said. “It’s an opportunity to enhance awareness and develop insight on the issue.”
Norman, who now works as a therapist and specializes in trauma recovery, said she was urged to share the piece by her colleague’s friends who attended the event.
“I am just like every other woman that has been hurt in some way,” she said. “It matters that I’m even able to share my voice, and I’m able to give my issue a voice. Why not use that tool and possibly affect another person in a positive type of way?”
According to a 2015 annual university crime report by the UCF Police Department, the number of rape offenses has decreased from 14 cases in 2014 to six in 2015. The report also shows there’s been a 31 percent decrease in the number of violent offenses between 2014 and 2015. The number of domestic violence offenses decreased by 25 percent.
Jessica Farnan, a victim advocate worker at UCF Victim Services, said that different services across campus are discussing concepts such as bystander intervention and what the definition of consent means.
“People feel more comfortable to say no and people are accepting that ‘no’ as a firm end to what’s going on,” Farnan said.
Farnan’s role is to be a resource for the community. She listens to people to tell their story and connects them with resources on and off campus to help victims feel safe.
“Have a plan to move forward, whether that’s getting out of the situation and going to a shelter, a friend’s house or more long-term steps,” Farnan said. “Safety is the first priority in getting out of that situation in the moment.”
Portal said that one of the greatest challenges for people who notice domestic violence is to remain sympathetic to the victims of abuse.
“When they are ready to leave the relationship, they’re not going to come to you because you’ve put them down in the past,” she said.
UCF Victim Services provides many resources to the UCF community, including a confidential 24/7 hotline for advocacy and support.
“Sometimes we’re like the middleman,” Portal said. “We can make sure we give you all your options and help you go in the direction that you’re wanting to go in.”
If you find yourself in need of assistance, call UCF Victim Services at 407-823-1200.
Dakota Croog is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.