GARY | Ten years of developing and teaching a class on women and crime taught her violence isn't an isolated event for women in prison, said Tanice Foltz, sociology professor and director of Women and Gender Studies at Indiana University Northwest.
"Women who are incarcerated have been either molested, raped, battered, whatever, multiple times," Foltz said last week in discussing her renewed interest in the Clothesline Project.
"There tends to be multiple victimizations in their past," she said. As many as 85 to 90 percent have been repeatedly victimized.
Over the years, students in the class spoke up about their experiences, having been raped, harassed or stalked by boyfriends, she said.
When so many students gave presentations on violence at a research conference, Foltz decided to take action, some of which was reviving the Clothesline Project, which has victims and survivors of abuse and violence create and display a T-shirt about their experience.
The shirts do not focus on just one type of abuse or relationship. They range from child abuse to date rape to domestic battery to harassment over sexual orientation.
Foltz and Monica Solinas-Saunders, an assistant professor of criminal justice, have undertaken a study of the extent of domestic violence among IUN's student population, expected to culminate in a conference titled Gender Violence: From Trauma to Triumph.
Research by fellow IUN colleagues Joseph Ferrandino and Dan Tsataros already indicates the problem may be too narrowly defined for adequate treatment by law enforcement in Indiana.
They and victim advocates say the number of domestic violence incidents have not abated over the years despite systematic and vigilant effort to stem it. Part of the reason may be, Ferrandino and Tsataros say, is that the term "domestic violence" remains too narrowly defined for law enforcement purposes in Indiana.
"The domestic violence perception is that of husband/wife," Ferrandino said. "It started out as spousal abuse. Nobody wanted to talk about it."
The problem really didn't come of the closet until the 1960s, he said.
But shelters set up for wives of abusive husbands don't help victims in situations they can't escape, he said. Tsataros said college students experience extremely high rates of domestic violence as well.
Between 20 and 50 percent of college students will experience dating violence, he said. Additionally, dating couples are more likely to be violent in their relationships than married couples.
Tsataros said 30 to 60 percent of perpetrators in an intimate relationship with a partner also abuse children in the household.
"Additionally, it should be known that witnessing violence between one's parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor for transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next," he said.
Earlier this month, to kick off Domestic Violence Awareness Month, eight leaders from Lake and Porter counties gathered at Merrillville's The Patio Restaurant to raise public awareness regarding the issue.
Strides are being made to provide services beneficial to both batterers and victims, Jane Bisbee, deputy director of field services with the Indiana Department of Child Services, said at the earlier gathering.
"We can't incarcerate every batterer," Bisbee said.
The public should be aware domestic violence is reportable to DCS, and parents should understand they are responsible for any domestic abuse witnessed or experienced by their children, she said.
For example, teenage girls should be urged never to allow coercion by a boyfriend, Bisbee said.