Community college project aims to shed colorful light on domestic violence

Antonio Iglesia has a well-toned, muscular build, one similar to those of men who spend Sunday afternoons crossing lines of scrimmage and chasing quarterbacks.

But the Anne Arundel Community College student says he has been in two relationships involving women who abused him physically.

"They became aggressive, and because I'm a man, both times they felt that I could take it," said the 35-year-old student, who spoke candidly about being abused while decorating a T-shirt at the college during preparations this past week for a local event related to the national Clothesline Project.

The project brings awareness to domestic violence through messages on T-shirts that are later hung in public venues. It coincides with October's designation as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The community college is collaborating with the YWCA of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County to sponsor a local version of the campaign. On Tuesday and Wednesday, T-shirts were decorated in the school's student union dining hall. School officials said that this Tuesday, the garments will be displayed in the college's quad between the Dragun science building and the humanities building.

Officials at the community college said that, according to IMA World Health statistics, one of three women and one of four men will experience sexual assault, gender abuse or stalking by an intimate partner. As part of the campaign, IMA representatives will be on campus to talk about its anti-domestic violence initiative, called We Will Speak Out, which asks people to pledge to help end sexual and gender-based violence.

Stephanie Goldenberg, AACC program coordinator for service learning, said the college has taken part in the event for four years. She called it "a good way to bring a diverse group together to learn about resources, have awareness about domestic violence and have a way to heal."

"Many people are connected in some way to a survivor or a victim of domestic violence," Goldenberg said. She added that domestic violence topics are incorporated into many courses at the college, such as women's health and gender studies.

"We have about five faculty members who are involved, who get their students involved, either through their course or through their club organizations," she said.

Students Tracey Do, 19, and Samantha Serrano, 18, said they were participating in the Clothesline Project as part of a class assignment. But both said they would have taken part in the event regardless because of their views on domestic violence.

"It affects a lot of people. It's unjust and it should be stopped," Serrano said.

Do said she has witnessed women, including a family member, being abused.

"I was 11," Do said. "It hurt [to see] because women shouldn't be treated like that. It's not right for a guy to put his hands on a woman without her permission. It's inhumane."

Serrano, Do and others used fabric paint to create T-shirt messages such as, "Never Be Bullied Into Silence," and "Abusers Choose to Abuse. Don't Suffer in Silence."

Goldenberg said that while national efforts regarding domestic violence often focus on women and children, the Anne Arundel Community College's Clothesline Project is inclusive.

"We look at survivors of domestic violence, we bring attention to the fact that men can be victims and survivors of domestic violence, and we look at same-sex relationships," Goldenberg said. "We are not limited to domestic violence against women. It is domestic violence, period."

Iglesia, a single parent who said he grew up in an abusive home, said he can attest to violence by women against men. "It needs to be out there," he said. "I called around, and I haven't found any shelters, nothing like that. It was very embarrassing for me the first time I had to call in.

"I was in the military, and I remember the first time it happened I went to work and I got laughed at and joked about by my buddies," Iglesia added. "I had a bruise on my face. But for me, I would go to jail because of any type of demonstration of force, especially someone of my size."

Students at the college say they hope the event helps to shed light on an issue they believe isn't widely discussed on college campuses.

"It's something that's important, and needed to be done to have awareness about it," said student Lexie Kaline, 18, after decorating a T-shirt. "I believe I've contributed to the awareness of it, and that makes me happy."

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad