With Domestic Violence Month already underway, there’s a push locally to bring light to one of the most overlooked issues in the African-American community. Howard University and Prince George’s County are both using different events to address this silent nightmare.

In conjunction with Verizon Wireless and the Verizon Foundation, the university helped launch the Red Flag campaign on Oct. 1 to address dating violence and promote prevention. The campus was littered with warning signs or “red flags” of abusive relationships in addition to posters highlighting the issue.

The campaign targets the 16-24 age group, mostly because of the alarming numbers of young people involved in domestic violence. According to the campaign, young women between the ages of 16-24 have the highest per capita rate of intimate partner violence while one-fifth of all college women in relationships are being abused.

The issue became highly publicized on a national level when Yeardley Love, a University of Virginia women’s lacrosse player, was murdered by her boyfriend earlier this year. Howard officials hope this campaign will help to prevent a similar tragedy on its campus.

“The Yeardley Love tragedy was a wake-up call for all of us who work with young people,” said Barbara Griffin, vice president for student affairs at Howard University, in a statement. “What we like so much about the Red Flag Campaign is that it challenges students to watch out for friends who may be involved in an unhealthy relationship. Our message is: ‘When you see a red flag, speak up.’ “

The university also aired a special screening of the Penn State Public Broadcasting-produced Telling Amy’s Story, a documentary about Amy Homan McGee, a former Verizon Wireless employee who was murdered by her husband in 2001.

In Prince George’s County, the state’s attorney’s office is kicking off the awareness month with Project Safe Sunday on Oct. 10, which is a partnership with the county’s faith-based community to address the issue. The initiative started after Ernestine Bunn-Dyson was tragically killed by her husband Tyrone Dyson in a murder-suicide. It prompted action by officials in a county that already has a special prosecutor specifically for domestic violence cases. In Prince George’s County, this issue is no laughing matter.

“It’s a huge problem. Prince George‘s County certainly has major challenges with that,” State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey said. “It clearly was a problem when I was a prosecutor and it’s a problem across the country. It’s an issue that we need to try to get on everybody’s radar screen and the faith community could be a perfect vehicle for raising this kind of issue.”

Ivey said he wants to make sure that people are receiving the proper guidance in their houses of worship, whether the person is Christian, Jewish or Muslim. He knows that people often turn to God for answers when they’re in trouble and he wants them to know who to turn to and how to report trouble.

“For a lot of people, when they’re in crisis, the first place they turn is to their place of worship,” Ivey said. “We want to make sure that those places are prepared to deal with them and point them in the right direction to get help in respect to referrals, social service or the police.”

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO