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College brings together events to focus on domestic violence

Stephanie Goldenberg, left, and Mary Bachkosky, right, hold T-shirts that were designed by students as part of the Anne Arundel Community College Clothesline Project which raises awareness of domestic violence.
Stephanie Goldenberg, left, and Mary Bachkosky, right, hold T-shirts that were designed by students as part of the Anne Arundel Community College Clothesline Project which raises awareness of domestic violence. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun)

Two events this week at Anne Arundel Community College are designed to shine a spotlight on domestic violence by delivering a message of awareness, action and hope.

In observance of national Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the college is inviting the public to its Arnold campus for a panel discussion Wednesday and an art exhibit specifically devoted to the topic.

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Mary Bachkosky, a special term instructor in the college's Legal Studies Institute, coordinated the panel event, titled "Domestic Violence: Legal Process & Community Resources," as part of the institute's annual Fall Speaker Series. When she was tapped with finding a topic for the series this semester, Bachkosky, an avid sports fan, did not need to look far.

"I wanted something relevant and legal-based, and I was driving around one day and just heard so much on sports radio about domestic violence. … It's kind of a hot topic and a discussion right now," Bachkosky said. Former Ravens running back Ray Rice was cut from the team and suspended indefinitely by the NFL because of a domestic violence incident.

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Bachkosky said the five panelists each bring a different perspective from their professional experience: Michelle D. Smith is an assistant state's attorney responsible for prosecuting felony-level domestic violence cases in Anne Arundel County; Maria Putzi is a victim witness specialist in the Anne Arundel County state's attorney's office; Officer Stacey Overbay is an Anne Arundel County Police Department detective who works in the domestic violence field; Mariela Canaviri is a bilingual client advocate who assists victims of domestic violence at the YWCA of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County; and Jacqueline S. Jackson is dean of student services at the college.

The panel "will go from prosecuting the offender and how the witness is supported, to the YWCA stating what kind of support there is in the community, to Dr. Jackson from the college talking about what the college is doing to combat violence in general," Bachkosky said.

The discussion will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the CADE building, room 219, on the Arnold west campus, and will conclude with a Q&A session with the panelists.

Bachkosky said students have stepped up to be part of the domestic violence awareness events. When she spoke about the panel discussion in her classes, she said, she was overwhelmed by the number of students who wanted to participate.

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"Every time I have class, I've got more students coming up wanting to help and be a part of this event, and they've told us really great ideas, [so the students] kind of own this event as much as I do," Bachkosky said. "They think this topic's really important."

At the panel discussion, audience questions will be read by students who themselves have been victims of domestic violence — and who wanted to lend their voices to the event.

"They are willing to share their story, because they know there's going to be people in that audience that are right alongside them [as domestic violence victims], and maybe they can find some strength in knowledge and in numbers from people discussing this topic," Bachkoskysaid.

Students at the college have also taken the lead in raising awareness of domestic violence through another on-campus initiative taking place this week known as the Clothesline Project.

Now in its fifth installment at the college, the exhibit will showcase hundreds of shirts designed by students, faculty and members of the AACC community to raise awareness of domestic violence.

Stephanie Goldenberg, program coordinator at the Center for Learning through Service at the college's Sarbanes Center for Public and Community Service, described the event as "like an art display."

"We have ... a clothesline that is run in the center of our campus and it displays approximately 250 shirts that have been made … in remembrance of someone who has passed who was a victim of domestic violence, someone who is a survivor of domestic violence, or just featuring words of hope," Goldenberg said.

The Clothesline Project, which is organized in collaboration with the YWCA, will be on display on the campus quad on Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.

The exhibit and panel discussion are part of a broader effort that extends across the campus and throughout the academic year: Faculty have worked discussions of domestic violence into their curriculum. The college's counseling, public safety and health services departments have become partners in the effort, as have a number of student clubs and organizations.

The message of awareness, support and prevention is one that officials hope becomes pervasive throughout the college.

"At our campus, we approach the discussion in an inclusive way," Goldenberg said, "because domestic violence affects everyone."

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