One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, according to statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Locally, more than 2,000 victims of abuse have received help from Putnam County Family Support Services in the last five years -- 2,291 to be exact.
Those numbers startled a group of seven DePauw University students who set out recently to complete a project in Professor Rebecca Bordt's intimate violence class. The exercise is meant to be a more practical method of teaching students than the normal classroom lecture.
"It's an opportunity for kids to take what they've learned and apply it to the real world," Bordt said in explaining what she calls her "social action project."
Led by DePauw junior Betsy Ballantine, the group of junior and senior students brainstormed ideas for the project with Elizabeth Butts, program director for Family Support Services.
What they came up with was an awareness campaign that included placing signs around Greencastle and spending a day handing out information on domestic violence at a local shopping center.
"We really just wanted to get the information out there and raise awareness," Ballantine, who is from Anderson, told the BannerGraphic this week. "I don't think people really realize the problem we have with domestic violence in our communities."
The students posted signs around town with the number "2,291" printed on them in large, black letters. Underneath the numbers was an explanation that there were 2,291 primary and secondary victims of domestic violence served locally by Family Support Services in the last five years.
The term "primary" refers to the person in a domestic violence situation who receives the abuse, be it physical or verbal. "Secondary" refers to anyone who sees someone else being abused, which is typically the child of the household.
Children are of particular concern for Ballantine who hopes to one day make a career of helping those who fall victim to violence.
"Ultimately I'd like to help in some way," the sociology major said.
Rough estimates by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence indicate that as many as 10 million children in the U.S. witness domestic abuse each year. Almost half of homes where domestic violence occurs have at least one child under the age of 12 living there, the agency said.
In their research, the DePauw students looked at the effects of domestic violence on children and specifically how it affects them later in life. Experts say children who either witness or who are victims of abuse are more likely to get in trouble with the law, have anxiety or depression, abuse drugs and alcohol or attempt suicide later in life.
Ballantine calls this the "cycle of violence" and hopes that by getting the information out to the public, it will help break down that pattern.
She and her fellow students passed out 500 brochures in one afternoon to shoppers at the Greencastle Wal-Mart.
"It was generally well-accepted, which is nice to see," Ballantine said.
Ballantine recalled that while she and the other students were passing out brochures, a woman approached them and said she was a victim of domestic violence. What she said made a lasting impression on the students.
"It was just kind of shocking to hear someone say that," Ballantine said.
The results of the students' project pleased their professor.
"I thought it was very creative," Bordt said. "I wanted them to choose a project that excited them. I was really impressed."
Look-ing back on the project, Ballantine said she and the other students learned that there is more work to be done when it comes to improving the statistics on domestic violence.
They had hoped to host a community event or awareness fair that would bring people out to learn more about domestic violence, but they couldn't pull it together in time.
"We learned that you can't do everything overnight," Ballantine said.
"You have to start small and work your way up."
Other students who worked on the project included Sonja Bugvilionis, Sadaf Fatima, Caroline Provan, Allie Schack, John Sibbitt, and Casey Thompson.