October 22, 2007
Group seeks to raise awareness of intimate partner violence
By kim urquhart
The statistics are chilling: Nearly one-third of American women report having been physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives. Georgia ranks 7th in the country for female homicides due to domestic violence. DeKalb County continues to have one of the highest domestic violence fatality rates in the state. Emory, too, has lost community members to this serious public health problem.
Paula Gomes and Sheryl Heron see it far too often in their line of work: Gomes as director of the Faculty Staff Assistance Program at the Emory Wellness Center, and Heron as an emergency medicine physician and associate professor of emergency medicine. Concerned about the growing number of domestic violence cases and limited educational awareness, Gomes and Heron spearheaded the formation of the Intimate Partner Violence Working Group.
“If you look at the statistics and you extrapolate those numbers to the number of people who work at Emory, clearly it’s a problem we can’t ignore,” said Heron, a nationally recognized speaker who has been influential in her work against domestic violence.
The fledgling group is using Domestic Violence Awareness Month as an opportunity to introduce themselves — and the facts about intimate partner violence — to the Emory community.
The mission of the IPVWG is to increase awareness of dating violence and intimate partner violence (as domestic violence is now known), which the group defines as “physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, financial, medical and spiritual abuse used to exert power and control of one partner over another.”
The group is working to develop strategies to educate Emory students, faculty and staff about intimate partner violence and dating violence within the context of the greater community. This includes a communication plan to bolster awareness about the resources available to assist individuals in abusive or neglectful partnerships.
At the end of the academic year, the group will recommend an action plan to Emory administrators with specific strategies for addressing the issues of intimate partner violence and dating violence.
“What needs to be done to arrest the problem of intimate partner violence? Who is available within our midst at Emory to provide education, support and leadership? What can we do at Emory today?” asked Heron. The solution, she said, involves “a coordinated community response, meaning we must involve people from all areas and all disciplines to address this issue.”
The IPVWG brings together for the first time community volunteers, service providers and experts in the field of domestic violence in Emory’s various schools and divisions and Emory Healthcare.
“Here we have one of the leading scholastic institutions in the Southeast, and within this institution we have individuals doing amazing things. We know each other, but we’ve never had a cohesive, overarching university statement,” said Heron, a member the statewide Georgia Commission on Family Violence, DeKalb Domestic Violence Task Force and a board member of the Women’s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence.
“Our goal is to establish bridges across Emory, and then with the Atlanta community, so that we are poised and ready to respond to our colleagues, friends and patients,” Gomes said.
Even more important than intervention is prevention, said Gomes. Education is a crucial component. The IPVWG is examining options for impacting awareness, which include educating the community about the resources available to survivors of domestic violence, and training staff and leaders to know how to help a colleague, direct report, student or friend who may be experiencing violence in their personal relationships. “We want to make sure that those involved in providing employee-related services and student-related services are well versed in the strategies for responding to this issue,” Gomes said.
Emory offers several resources and support services related to intimate partner violence (see sidebar). Yet Gomes and Heron suspect that many women may still suffer in silence. But women are not the only ones affected by this type of violence; women sometimes hurt their partners as well. The definition is broad: intimate partner violence does not require sexual intimacy; violence can be experienced in a dating relationship; and it can occur among same-sex couples. Another action item the IPVWG will consider is how to increase awareness to the LGBT community and in culturally sensitive organizations.
“Intimate partner violence is still such an extremely delicate and personal matter,” said Heron. “We want to allow for that safe space. The bottom line is to save lives.”
• Center for Women
404-727-2000; www.womenscenter.emory.edu; Provides consultations, referral services and educational materials.
• Faculty Staff Assistance Program
404-727-4328; www.emory.edu/fsap; Provides assessment, consultation, counseling, resource referrals, educational materials, 24-hour on-call services.
• Employee Health
404-686-8589; www.emoryhealthcare.org; Provides new hire screenings, annual assessments, referral resources, educational and support services.
• Emory Center for Pastoral Services
404-712- 7200; www.emoryhealthcare.org/cps; Provides support and referral services.
• Emory University Human Resources
• Emory Healthcare Human Resources
404-778-7777; www.emoryhealthcare.org or www.eushc.org/departments/humanresources/index.html; Provides interface and involvement related to work performance.
• Emory Police Department
404-727-6115; www.emory.edu/EPD; Provides consultations and resource information on safety plans and
• Emory Counseling Center
404-727-7450; www.emory.edu/scounsel; Provides intakes/assessment, counseling and resource referrals.
• Office of Student Conduct
• Emory Student HealthSexual Assault Prevention Educator
Provides consultation, referral and advocacy to students.