See the Triumph
ECU professor’s research aids victims of domestic violence
By Alexa DeCarr
ECU News Services
What began as a research study on domestic violence has turned into “See the Triumph,” a project aimed at connecting and empowering victims.
Dr. Allison Crowe, an assistant professor in counselor education at East Carolina University, and Dr. Christine Murray, an associate professor at UNC Greensboro, first combined their complementary curiosities to investigate whether survivors of domestic violence felt stigmatized.
“I had looked at the stigma associated with mental illness and was curious if this same term applied to other populations of people who might be experiencing hardships,” Crowe said. “In the literature … there was very little written on stigma as it applied to this population.”
They began by interviewing 12 women who suffered violence but have been out of an abusive relationship for at least two years. At the time of the interviews, Crowe was living in Vermont and teaching at Antioch University New England. She moved to Greenville in August 2012 to teach in ECU’s College of Education.
“It was amazing to sit down with these people and hear their stories,” Crowe said. “I was shocked to hear the stigmas that were held against domestic violence victims.”
Those stigmas can range from acting as though the victim is to blame to the victim experiencing feelings of worthlessness to a loss of status in the family or community, she explained.
After conducting the in-person interviews, Crowe and Murray launched an online survey covering the same topics. Approximately 220 men and women have responded. They answered questions and explained how they overcame domestic violence and have kept themselves free of abusive relationships.
“We received paragraphs from people trying to tell their stories,” Crowe said. “We knew we had to do something.”
They launched a website and blog titled “See the Triumph” on Jan. 1.
The name “See the Triumph” came from a survivor who had been physically and verbally abused by a former boyfriend and father of her child. The victim said: “The only thing that bothers me about it is that other people can’t see the triumph in (getting out of a abusive relationship), because to me this is a treasure to be at this point in my life.”
The website shares empowering messages accompanied by uplifting images, as well as resources and hotlines victims can go to for help. The online survey is also available on the site so survivors can continue to tell their stories.
“We are taking traditional research and giving a new life to it through visual art,” said Crowe. “We are making it come alive and giving it meaning.”
Crowe said she found out through the victims’ interviews and surveys that even the people they turn to for help – friends, family, law enforcement and counselors – reinforce many of the stigmas associated with domestic violence.
“We want to educate people and help society overcome the stigma that exists so victims of domestic violence can very quickly get the help they need,” she said.
Although the project is still in the initial stages, Crowe said it has already affected her as a professor.
“It has opened me up to social media in ways that I hadn’t used before,” she said. “It is a great way to connect with my students because this is how they connect with each other.”
Crowe said the project has also made her aware that there are many different types of people who experience abuse and violence.
“We heard from highly educated, young, old, rich, poor and college students,” she said. “It has made me very aware of the notion that college students might be experiencing this in their own lives, too; and part of what I can do is make resources available, and provide education and support.”
Crowe and Murray recently partnered with the Stop Abuse Campaign and launched a “See the Triumph” Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Crowe said they hope to eventually have a donation section so they can continue to grow, and will consider using multimedia to make a documentary or provide audio narration from victims on the website and blog.
“We will take any help we can get,” Crowe said. “Even if you’ve never been through it, you can advocate for victims by liking our Facebook page or following us on Twitter.”