October 22, 2001

Omega Phi Beta Hosts Brunch on Domestic Violence

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The Omega Phi Beta sorority, Inc. hosted a brunch yesterday in the Community Commons multipurpose room to educate members of the Cornell community about dealing with domestic violence issues.

The event, entitled “The Hidden Truth,” featured reflective poems by women, a candlelight vigil recognizing victims, and an address by Susan Robinson, the Domestic Violence Prevention Coordinator for Tompkins County. Fifty people attended the event, which honored Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Robinson’s organization, Tompkins County Coalition for Domestic Violence, provides training on identifying and dealing with these types of crimes and pressures the District Attorney’s office to prosecute these cases. She focused her keynote address on recognizing and helping others deal with domestic violence in their lives.

“When we think about domestic violence, we think about the really horrible cases that we read about on the front page of the paper. In fact, many forms of domestic violence go unnoticed because they are not reported or are not criminal acts, such as intimidation and threats of violence,” Robinson said.

She explained that most victims of domestic violence are not aware that they are victims because they are used to that kind of treatment. They only know abusive relationships and actually think that they are part of the problem. Others remain in hurtful relationships because they are afraid that if they leave they will be unable to take care of themselves or their children.

Robinson warned that passively dealing with this problem can lead to battered woman syndrome. This mental state drastically hinders a woman’s ability to lead a normal life by causing her to perform poorly at work or shy away from social interaction. This can eventually cause a woman to act in ways she normally would not, such as committing crimes.

As an example, Robinson referred to the case of Deborah Dennin, in which Dennin killed her husband, a well-respected attorney. Dennin hired a specialist on battered woman syndrome and the jury eventually acquitted her because she acted in self-defense.

Robinson also gave suggestions for dealing with friends that may be victims.

“If you know a victim, the best thing you can do is empower her. You shouldn’t just say ‘you need to leave him’ because then you will be another demanding figure in her life. Instead, you should listen to her, let her know you are there for her, and will do anything that she needs you to do,” Robinson recommended.

When asked by an audience member, Robinson expressed optimism for offender education and rehabilitation programs. Since she believes that this pattern of behavior is learned from being treated in that manner in the past, she also believes it can be unlearned.

Following the keynote address, members of several sororities in Cornell’s Multicultural Greek Letter Council lit candles with purple ribbons on them in honor of victims that have died as a result of domestic violence. Hundreds of names of these victims from around the United States were read to show the audience the magnitude of the problem in today’s society.

“People should realize that domestic violence affects all of us in some way or another and we should be prepared to deal with it when it happens to someone we know,” said Jacqueline Camilo ’02, a member of the Omega Phi Beta sorority. “We must initiate efforts to recognize and put an end to these criminal acts.”

“Domestic violence is so under recognized. I think people just don’t know or don’t believe that this exists, but yet it happens right here in Ithaca,” said Lindsay Patross ’02, referring to the case where an Ithaca resident killed his wife and committed suicide last week.

Archived article by Seth Harris