Ring of care on campus

Earlier this year, Vision featured an article that documented a University of York student’s struggle with domestic abuse. The article highlighted that those between the ages of 16 – 24 are at the most high risk of experiencing such violence. This shocking statistic led to my friend Sarah Bartlett and I deciding that awareness needed to be raised. It’s too easy to just associate domestic abuse just with the stereotypical images of housewives and alcoholics, but it’s a real problem that actually affects people within our university.

Domestic abuse appears to happen at varying degrees and it should be recognised that less extreme cases can quite easily become worse if victims are not adequately supported to take action to change things. People need to have a more informed and objective view of what a healthy relationship actually is and also need to feel comfortable when discussing their opinions about relationships with each other more openly.

One reason it is so hard to break the cycle of domestic abuse is because it comes from somebody who you love and respect. It may also be hard to self-diagnose as the severity of abuse is often invisible as it increases over long periods of time. It makes me feel sick that one person could control another person in such a way that belittles and frightens them. A healthy relationship can be glorious but an unhealthy one is horrific – it’s important to get it right.

Domestic abuse also has an inherent stigma that is taboo, and by raising more awareness about what happens to people all around us we can begin to encourage these previously ‘forbidden’ topics of conversation. We want to reignite the topic into the consciousness of people’s minds we hope to inspire conversations of all sizes about what is acceptable in a relationship and what is a sign of danger.

We decided to try and achieve this by launching a project on campus called Ring of Care, in association with IDAS (Independent Domestic Abuse Services for the Yorkshire Area). We’ve set ourselves the ambitious goal of getting 2012 people in York to sign a ‘care card’. These will be joined together around their campus lake stretching a massive 1.6km forming an eye-catching landmark to grab students’ attention. Students will be able to get information on healthy relationships, where to go if they have problems and learn the warning signs to look out for in friends and family.

One of the most poignant parts of organising the Ring of Care so far has been when several people contacted us in confidence about their experiences of domestic abuse, some of whom are still dealing with repercussions of their ordeals. This really provided the motivation that is needed to co-ordinate such a large scale task.

People should know that they’re not alone. Hopefully the Ring of Care demonstrates how many people do actually care about the subject and that it is okay to talk about it. Getting people talking about what they think is and isn’t acceptable behaviour in a relationship is the goal we have set out to achieve, and hopefully the Ring of Care is the first step towards this.