GEC Statement regarding vandalism to the Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services
This letter was submitted to the Oshkosh Northwestern on December 7th, 2011.
Each year Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services places life-sized silhouettes of human beings on the fence surrounding the Christine Ann Center domestic abuse shelter grounds on Algoma Boulevard in Oshkosh. The silhouettes represent victims killed at the hands of their partners. They also contain biographical information, deeply conveying the loss of a human being to domestic or partner violence.
On October 8, these corrugated plastic silhouettes were torn down, decapitated and urinated upon. As if this wasn’t disturbing enough, some of the individuals who benefit from the services of the Christine Ann Center witnessed the vandalism through the windows of the center. Within an instant, the shelter residents’ place of refuge was under attack, and they experienced images representing their greatest fears of violence and death.
The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Gender Equity Council (GEC) wishes to speak out about these acts of vandalism which occurred October 8 and again on November 12. The GEC, appointed by the Chancellor advocates to create a safer and more equitable learning and working environment for women at UW Oshkosh characterized by open-mindedness, respect and acceptance of diversity. GEC believes these shameful acts of violence at the Christine Ann Center warrant deeper examination as a community, especially since they occurred during Domestic Abuse Awareness Month, mere days after the annual Fox Valley Take Back the Night rally and march in Oshkosh.
While the perpetrators of the violence have yet to be identified and brought to justice, it is important to point out that their actions have done damage more significant than the destruction of property. The real crime in such hate crimes, is the targeting of victims of domestic violence, which also impacts the families of the deceased individuals represented by the silhouettes, the staff and residents of the Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services and anyone else who has been effected by the physical and emotional trauma of domestic abuse.
Different organizations, businesses and individuals in the community have responded to this crime, and have responded quickly through donating money to support the important work of the Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services. The Oshkosh Senior Center, for example, created new silhouettes with treated wood, able to make it through the harsh winter and wet spring.
One could easily say that this outpouring has lessened the damage of the vandalism and that both the university community and the greater Oshkosh community have shown they reject this kind of crime and stand in solidarity with the work of the Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services.
The GEC feels a special sense of responsibility to raise questions related to this hate crime. To do this we must engage and connect when issues of violence, sexual abuse and gender violence arise in our community. Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Take Back the Night are annual opportunities for us as a community to break the silence about partner violence.
The Wisconsin Domestic Violence Homicide Report 2010 (http://www.wcadv.org/sites/default/files/resources/2010HR.pdf) notes that “we have the responsibility—individually and institutionally—to speak up and to hold one another and our communities accountable for the ways we intervene or fail to intervene. This collective speaking up has made a difference in the past thirty-five years”. Speaking up means that we recognize abuse when it happens in our midst and respond with help. Penn State and other institutions are learning the hard consequences of being a bystander and not stopping apparent sexual or partner violence. We all have a responsibility to our greater community to recognize harmful situations and to stop them with a phone call for emergency help or saying something directly.
With that ethic to guide us, the GEC encourages anyone with any information regarding this vandalism at Christine Ann Center to contact the Oshkosh Police Department. We have a sense that those who witnessed this vandalism have been troubled and are likely uncomfortable with having witnessed the malicious and calculated acts.
For anyone troubled by the recent acts of violence or anyone who would like to report their own experiences with partner violence, we encourage you to seek support from Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services or Reach Counseling Services. UW Oshkosh students and staff can contact the Counseling Center or Campus Victim Advocate at (920)424-2061.
We also strongly encourage widening the conversation on responsible behavior and civility. University and community members can sign the Oshkosh Civility Project pledge at http://www.oshkoshcivilityproject.org/. Moreover, we ask that you help continue to find ways to support Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services. Community and University members can always volunteer time, donate needed shelter supplies or give money. Students can get involved by connecting with CARE (Campus for Awareness and Relationship Education) peer educators and learning more about how their Actions Matter at www.uwosh.edu/action-matters.
Gender Equity Council