UCF Victim Services hosted Light Up the Night for its eighth consecutive year during domestic violence awareness month.
Attendees heard from different speakers including survivors, police officers and a florida abolitionist who talked about domestic violence stories and different local resources and tips to use when someone notices a domestic violence situation.
Christine Mouton, UCF victim services director, led the event by describing domestic violence as not just physical but also emotional or psychological abuse.
According to National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. She said to imagine how many people were being abused from the moment the event began to when it finished.
“Awareness is one of the key elements to bring something to light that everyone needs to know about and Victim Services has done an excellent job in bringing awareness and getting the message out there that you don’t have to suffer in silence and you can have services available to you,” UCF police officer Pete Stephens said.
UCFPD officers Carl Metzger and Brett Meade continued the annual event speaking about domestic violence on campus and it’s intolerance.
“If you see something, say something” Metzger said.
Meade mentioned the various organizations which came from various parts of Florida and the gratitude he and many officers have for the work they have done over the past years. He also mentioned the close work UCF Victim Services has done over the years with the police department and success in helping survivors.
Although he said he is grateful, he said he wished events such as this one didn’t have to take place because he hoped to live in a world where domestic violence is non-existent.
Florida Abolitionist, Inc. Founder and Executive Director, Tomas J. Lares, spoke about human trafficking in Florida and various places in which it occurs. Common places included farm lands, truck stops and international centers. Lares mentioned that across the globe, there are several other ways in which human trafficking occurs but locally, Florida is the third state with the most human trafficking.
“To act globally, think back and act locally,” Lares said.
Lares said that many human traffickers prey upon vulnerability and now lure victims through social networks. He plead attendees to act when they see signs of domestic violence or human trafficking and dial national hotlines which will respond.
UCFPD officer Eric Walton described many forms in which human trafficking and domestic violence has even started through digital means such as social media sites.
“Control the story of you,” UCFPD officer Eric Walton said multiple times throughout the night.
Although photos are deleted from various social media sites or disappear after 24 hours through snapchat, there are still digital footprints of them left on the internet. Walton suggested thinking before you post because once something is out there, it remains forever.
He mentioned many cyberstalking reports or identity thefts where victims did not have safe enough passwords or were too public with their private information.
One anonymous survivor spoke through a video about her experiences in realizing she had been domestically abused as well as using CAPS and social support to come out of her shell. She said that although it is tough and not all days are great, it takes time and patience to get better.
Michelle Jewett also spoke about her experience over the years when her sister was killed due to domestic violence.
“It’s not about the numbers, it’s about lives lost,” Jewett said.
She told everyone to not just pay attention to all the facts as numbers but as several lives lost on a daily basis. The lives of people with families and friends who cared for them.
Jewett mentioned how domestic violence was vastly overseen in the 90s and how it has luckily grown as a huge concern over the years. She said that domestic violence is all about abuse and power and is easily overseen in many situations due to accepting certain behaviors from perpetrators which shouldn’t be accepted or brushed off. No one should be treated badly and should be loved and cherished she added.
With the memorial event, An Empty Place at the Table, Mouton told the story of seven different UCF members who died due to domestic violence. An eighth table place was left for all the UCF members who have died and were never found or mentioned. The attendees held up their phones as a light for these lives lost and a moment of silence.
Multiple students walked up to the different groups tabled in the back to talk about various ways to prevent and notice domestic violence and human trafficking.
Tayler Gautier, an interdisciplinary studies student, said she was moved and inspired by Jewett’s life story and ability to come back from a place of darkness despite the multiple hardships and grief it has brought.
“I hope to raise awareness and provide education because education is the best way to prevent domestic violence from happening. I hope to educate people on what’s ok, what’s not OK, on consent, on healthy relationships, and things like that to prevent tragedies like this from happening,” Gautier said.