Dispelling myths about who ‘bad guys’ really are

Rachel Caidor

“People who are offenders often commit multiple acts of violence,” says Rachel Caidor, assistant director, Campus Advocacy Network. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

The “bad guys” often aren’t people who look suspicious, cloaked in dark clothing and hiding behind bushes, says Rachel Caidor.

In fact, offenders in cases of interpersonal violence are often people the victim knows well.

“We watch ‘Law and Order: SVU’ and have this idea of what victims and offenders look like,” said Caidor, assistant director of the Campus Advocacy Network. “We’re trying to disrupt these myths.”

UIC’s Campus Advocacy Network spreads the message on campus that interpersonal violence — such as domestic abuse, sexual assault, stalking or hate crimes — can happen to anyone.

CAN staff members talk to incoming freshmen and transfer students during orientation programs about the services they provide: educating the UIC community about interpersonal violence and providing survivors with the tools they need to heal, Caidor said.

Part of the Women’s Leadership and Resource Center, CAN assisted 60 members of the UIC community during the last academic year. Students or employees can visit the program’s offices from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays in 802 University Hall for free, confidential services.

“Students or staff are not committing to anything when they come and talk to us,” Caidor said.

“We can talk about what is going on and what options are available to them and what we can do to reduce harm, make them feel more empowered.”

CAN staff members help people obtain orders of protection, fill out police reports, go through the student judicial hearing process and take other measures to empower themselves, Caidor said.

“Sometimes people come in to talk and process their feelings and they realize they don’t want to take any action,” she said. “But we let them know we’ll be here when they’re ready.”

CAN provides educational outreach to teach students how to recognize the signs of interpersonal violence and ways they can intervene.

“While most people are not offenders, people who are offenders often commit multiple acts of violence before somebody intervenes,” Caidor said. “We’re helping to raise awareness of ways to intervene to create a safer community here at UIC.”

Students who think a friend might be in an abusive relationship, for example, can ask them if they feel safe in their relationship and let them know they can turn to CAN to talk confidentially about their situation, she said.

“If your friend treats their partner really terribly and you know they are using power and control to make their partner feel terrible, you can say, ‘Listen, that’s not OK,’” Caidor said.

“There’s that personal relationship, which makes it harder for people to leave or intervene, but that’s what makes it easier for people to continue the violence.”

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