Students eclipse USC in bringing domestic violence awareness to the forefront

As clubs shed light, questions have arisen on why the university falls short on substantial resources.

A photo of four sorority members at a table with boxes of donuts.

In the midst of midterms and Halloween season, serious matters like domestic violence can often be obscured from students.

October has been known as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month since 1987 to bring public attention to issues surrounding relationship abuse and in support of survivors.

Through organizations and clubs, some students have taken the responsibility of bringing light to the issue very seriously.

“It feels like I’m doing something important,” said Chelsey Nguyen, a senior double major in political science and data science. The vice president of philanthropy and member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority, Nguyen works to educate others in the USC community. “Awareness is where it starts, because everything happens behind closed doors.”

Domestic violence, otherwise known as intimate partner violence, is more common than one may assume. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 4 adult women have experienced domestic violence, compared to 1 in 10 men. College statistics are quite similar, as women students are twice as likely than men to have that experience.

In a USC Student Health briefing, Chief Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman said that in response to “increased reports of people experiencing [domestic violence] across the country,” there are “a bunch of different programs that are going on this month to help raise awareness around domestic violence.”

However, Relational and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services (RSVP), a subdivision of USC Student Health, so far has only two scheduled virtual workshops: one on compassionate care for survivors of domestic violence, and the other on toxic dating behaviors. When asked if the workshops would be recorded in order to accommodate students with scheduling conflicts, Dr. Van Orman had no answer.

“Prior to coming to USC, I had never heard of Domestic Violence Awareness Month,” said Lucy Pape, a junior accounting major and president of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority. In an interview with Annenberg Media, Pape shared how she believes the issue is not “widely known,” which has hindered many like her from learning about it.

Similar sentiment is shared among students with little to no knowledge surrounding Domestic Violence Awareness Month. “[USC] emphasizes other things, like inclusion or mental health lately,” says Robin PhamTuong, a junior environmental studies major. “In terms of domestic violence, I haven’t heard much of it.”

In promoting awareness, Alpha Chi Omega started off last week with a Krispy Kreme donut sale around campus entrances. The entire proceeds, Nguyen said, will be donated to the Good Shepherd Shelter in Los Angeles for women and families coming from unsafe homes and situations.

The sorority says to have received a positive turnout in donut sales throughout its three days of operation, where students bought the sweets to either support the fundraiser, grab breakfast, or perhaps both.

Alpha Chi Omega will host a carnival on Saturday, Oct. 23, in which the proceeds will also be donated to the Good Shepherd Shelter. But ultimately, the sorority hopes to promote awareness within the student community on a social issue often overshadowed.

While Pape acknowledged USC’s recent actions in mandating RSVP workshops on consent and healthy relationships, she argued they could utilize their platform and brand to highlight issues that are not as properly addressed as they should be. “If USC is doing something to spread the message that domestic violence prevention is important, then people are gonna listen,” Pape said.

These workshops have the most potential in impacting students due to their mandatory requirements. However, PhamTuong believes more could be done in respect to how the content is presented, and its role in USC student life. “Even though it’s kind of tedious and most people don’t pay attention to [them], just exposing people to the topic alone is a first step.”

As for what students can do, checking in on loved ones is crucial to letting someone know they are cared for.

“Hands don’t hurt, [and] love never should,” said Nguyen.

For more information and awareness, visit the Los Angeles resources for domestic violence and RSVP’s confidential 24-hour client services website.