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Black Eye
In an effort to increase awareness about domestic violence, 39 Airmen and civilians at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., sported black eyes as part of the Family Advocacy's first-ever Black Eye Campaign from Oct. 17 to Oct. 21, 2011. The purpose of the campaign was to increase awareness for domestic violence and advocacy for those in abusive relationships, and further educate people about resources available and reporting options for domestic violence. (U.S.Air Force photo/Senior Airman Amanda N. Grabiec)
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Black eyes raise domestic violence awareness

Posted 11/4/2011   Updated 11/4/2011 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Derek VanHorn
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

11/4/2011 - GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Thirty-nine Airmen and civilians reported for work across the wing last month, each sporting a noticeable black eye and wondering just one thing: Would anyone notice?

Thankfully, the bruises were simulated - part of Grand Forks' first-ever Family Advocacy Program Black Eye Campaign from Oct. 17 to 21.

"The purpose of the campaign was to increase awareness of domestic violence and advocacy for those in abusive relationships," said Capt. Daphne Brewton, 319th Medical Operations Squadron family advocacy officer and campaign coordinator. "Additionally, the campaign aimed to further educate people about resources available and reporting options for domestic violence."

Moulage artists painted the injuries on the volunteers who wore their new look for only one day that week.

The "survivors" were instructed not to make up a story if someone were to ask what happened. They were instead asked to track how many people they interacted with, how many actually asked about the black eye, how many people seemed to notice but ignored them, and how they felt about the interactions.

Organizers also wanted to know how many of the people who approached the volunteers were familiar with the various reporting options and resources for someone involved in domestic abuse.

In all, the 39 participants came into contact with approximately 878 base personnel. Volunteers reported that nearly 50 percent of those people took action, approaching the volunteers to ask them what happened and to see whether anything was wrong.

Volunteers provided anonymous feedback after wearing the black eye for a day. Comments included:

"It feels good to know that your friends and co-workers will ask if you are ok; but the ignorers had the biggest impact. I definitely don't want to be an ignorer anymore!"
"The people that make note of the injury seem to legitimately care about you and your scenario."

"What I got out of the experience is that most people really do look the other way even though they suspect abuse is going on. I think people should say, and would like to say something, but end up using the 'mind your business' card."

" All four personnel who took notice knew the reporting options and resources. I think this was a great way to raise awareness about domestic violence."

"It really hit me hard that some of the Wingmen I worked with didn't say a thing. Even people I talk to out of the office didn't know how to address it, and after I said something at the end of the day they said that they don't like confrontation. It made me feel as if it didn't matter that I was being abused and that the situation I could have been in was my fault; which is something that runs through the head of many people in these situations. We need more out there to assist these abused people; this kind of thing puts a fire under me to do more."

"It felt good to know people cared to ask, even some strangers -- I actually felt like people cared. Normally what you see in the military or in life itself, people tend to stay away from problems in front of them. But in this case it was the other way around, so it was a caring experience."

Of the 411 who did approach the volunteers, 250 - about 60 percent - were familiar with resources to help someone in an abusive relationship or were familiar with the reporting options for domestic violence.

"The feedback we received was awesome; I was overwhelmed by the responses we received from the participants" Brewton said, while also noting some of the data may have been skewed due to over-exposure toward the end of the campaign week.

"The numbers showing our community's response were great, but to me our greatest victories were with the people wearing the black eye who said, 'I'm not going to overlook this anymore and I'm going to seek out and ask what's going on when I see something like this happening,'" Brewton said.

According to government statistics, three women in America - on average - die as a result of domestic violence each day. One in four women and one in 13 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. These statistics are even more sobering when one considers that domestic violence often goes unreported.

"It is important to break the silence about domestic violence and not keep it 'hush, hush' and sweep it under the rug," Brewton said. "It affects everyone in a very powerful and negative way and is something we cannot tolerate."

For more information on domestic violence, call your local Family Advocacy Office.

2/17/2012 11:37:21 AM ET
How about a Pulitzer for the reporter
John Van Horn, South Haven MI
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