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Speaker shares insight on stopping domestic violence

Alexandra Baird, Assistant City Editor

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“I have this theory that most of us could live with a serial killer for about a year and not even notice,” said Alyce LaViolette, an expert in domestic violence counseling. “The energy of new love is greater than the energy of fear.”

This was one statement by LaViolette during “The Snow White-Wicked Witch Convergence Theory” Tuesday afternoon.

Rain pounded the campus while students in the psychology building listened intently as LaViolette asked questions that challenged assumptions of gender, violence and empowerment. The Women’s Resource Center and Project Safe sponsored the program in recognition of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Speaker LaViolette, who has a private counseling practice, is known for taking a different angle in the fight against domestic violence: In 1979 she created “Alternatives to Violence” in Long Beach, one of the first therapy programs in the country to work with the perpetrators rather than the victims of domestic violence.

LaViolette asked students to consider their own experiences and told compelling stories about people she has worked with, from a New Jersey mafia boss to a woman who was abused by her husband until she thought homicide or suicide were her only options.

Assistant director of the Women’s Resource Center Lynn Coenen said LaViolette is a groundbreaker in the field. She has written books like “It Could Happen to Anyone: Why Battered Women Stay.”

“Alyce is known as a breaker of all the rules,” Coenen said. “She was building a program for men when people were thinking men were the enemy.”

 Students discussed the ideas of gender they learned from fairy tales. In her work with domestic violence survivors, LaViolette said she asks women to go from “Snow White to the Wicked Witch,” or to stop being timid and start speaking up for themselves.

“I look at Snow White and she was a very passive character, but she was also nice,” she said. “She was almost nice enough to make you sick. Her whole life was about cleaning and singing.”

LaViolette also offered practical solutions for dealing with friends in difficult situations and different anger styles in relationships. After working with perpetrators and victims of violence for more than 30 years, she said abusers “are not one-dimensional people.”

Organizers said the issue of domestic and relationship violence is local and critical.

“A year ago we had a [student] murdered by her boyfriend,” Coenen said. “We have faced this twice with people we’ve directly known [on campus]. It’s really very tricky.”

Students who attended the event said they found it interesting and practical.

“It was very helpful because I’ve known people in abusive relationships,” said junior art major Nicole Casare. “It’s good to know the difference between not letting them stay in the controlling relationship, but not attacking them either.”

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