Mississippi State University’s Department of Health Promotion and Wellness is asking students to “Take the Pledge” on campus this October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“Take the Pledge” is a month-long initiative hosted by the Department of Health Promotion and Wellness in partnership with the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
According to Santee Ezell, assistant director of Health Promotion and Wellness, by signing the pledge, students agree to stand against domestic violence, which is abuse within a romantic or platonic relationship.
Ezell said silence is complying with abuse, and everyone has the responsibility to take action. Students can physically sign the pledge by writing their name on the Department of Health Promotion and Wellness’s pledge card.
“Taking the pledge means students are actually standing up against domestic violence,” Ezell said. “They are understanding what domestic violence looks like. They are being a part of the bystander intervention and not allowing this to happen to family, friends or even students they do not know.”
The department went to various locations on campus to encourage people to sign the pledge. According to Leah Pylate, director of Health Promotion and Wellness, they tabled at locations such as the Drill Field, the Colvard Student Union and outside the Longest Student Health Center.
“At these locations, we are offering educational information and the opportunity for people to sign the pledge card, showing that people are coming together in solidarity against violence,” Pylate said.
Until the end of October, the department will continue to host “Take the Pledge” events around campus, giving more students the opportunity to stand up against domestic violence.
Pylate said if a person is abused, it affects every area of their life. It impedes a person’s ability to go to school and have a successful life. Through learning to recognize the signs of domestic abuse, someone can change the life of an abuse victim for the better, allowing them to be successful and healthy.
Domestic violence is a growing concern that affects many college students. According to Cierra McCaleb, a graduate assistant with Health Promotion and Wellness, domestic violence rates are increasing, and many cases are never reported. She believes it is important for people to know the signs of abuse and to seek it out.
The department wants their initiative to be gender-neutral because domestic violence affects both men and women. McCaleb said men who are abused oftentimes feel like they cannot tell anyone about it. Women typically become embarrassed, shameful and become accustomed to a cycle of mistreatment.
“People do not understand that it is hard to break that cycle. When you go through a relationship, abuse may happen and someone says they can fix it and change. It may not happen for a while and then it happens again,” McCaleb said. “Most people think they would just leave if they were being domestically abused, but it is not that simple.”
The department is working to help students recognize the signs of abuse in other’s relationships and their own relationships. Ezell presented a classroom presentation entitled “Your Boo Shouldn’t Scare You” to students.
Ezell said this presentation informed students about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. Many college students are involved in serious relationships for the first time. It is important to know that if a partner is threatening and belittling, that is a sign of domestic violence.
The Department of Health Promotion and Wellness wants students to know that they are a resource. Ezell said its purpose goes beyond this initiative, and students are welcome in the office whenever they need help. The department works with MSU Student Counseling Services, the Dean of Students and the MSU Police Department.
“We do not want students to ever feel like they have to go through a violent situation. We want them to know we are a resource,” Ezell said. “We are able to provide presentations and programs about domestic abuse and how to seek help.”