Love is not abuse
(Photo courtesy of Elisa DiGiacopo)

by Christine Urio

Mount Saint Mary College seniors Elisa DiGiacopo and Kara Rogowski joined forces on their senior project to tackle domestic violence through their “Love Is Not Abuse” event, which kicked off during the week of Feb. 9.

Because February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, with not a lot of students knowing what is categorized as dating violence, the two strategically planned to have their event at that time. “Love Is Not Abuse” also coincides with One Billion Rising, a global event to rise against the domestic violence that typically falls around Valentine’s Day.

“The goal was to focus on domestic violence awareness,” DiGiacopo said. “Because college students still fall into the ‘teen dating’ category, we wanted them to know what to look for as signs of abuse.”

Unlike other major topics, like poverty or racism, domestic violence is not talked about often and usually openly discussed only when it happens to celebrities.

“As a society we like to think it doesn’t happen when it does. Dating violence is actually the most under-reported crime there is,” she said.

With these events, they wanted the student body to know what dating violence was, the signs, the types, and their options if it happens to them.  The information provided focused on women, but provided facts for all genders since domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of their sex.

During the symposium on Fri., Feb. 13, local organizations like Safe Homes of Orange County and Planned Parenthood were in attendance to answer questions and provide information on how to handle and prevent violent situations.

“We want students to look for the signs, like hurting their significant other both physically and emotionally, like controlling every bit of their lives,” DiGiacopo said. “When you spot the signs there are plenty of options, like calling the domestic violence hotline or going to security or the police.”

Safe Homes also gave a lecture as part of their project on Tues., Feb. 10, which focused on what dating violence is, the types that are out there, and what you can do to prevent it.

“We wanted to reach the student body so they can become aware that this can happen to anyone and they can be equipped to help out a friend or themselves,” said DiGiacopo.

DiGiacopo and Rogowski used the slogan “Love Is Not Abuse” to promote their events because they felt that a significant other shouldn’t abuse someone because that isn’t love.

“Just because February is Dating Violence Awareness month doesn’t mean we should just be aware this month, it should be every month,” DiGiacopo said.