Daralyn and Cassandra organize their props for their final performance on Friday for USF’s Performance Art[s] in American Society course.
The two are performing in a piece called “Six Times the Harm,” which is part of the course’s final compilation of student performances entitled “hit it & quit it.”
Sara Dykins Callahan, the instructor for the performance-based course, says that the class “teaches students the genre of performance art through the process of experimentation and creation.”
According to the National Institute of Justice, the recent economic hardship and recession has yet another negative effect on people: domestic violence against women.
Worst hit are lower-income neighborhoods, a 2004 Department of Justice research report titled, “Concentrated Disadvantage, Economic Distress, and Violence Against Women in Intimate Relationships,” showed. Only 4.3 percent of intimate partner violence occurred in higher-income neighborhoods versus the 8.6 percent in underprivileged communities.
Bonnie Yegidis, professor and director of the University of South Florida’s School of Social Work, specializes in studying family violence. Yegidis said that a major stressor for couples and families is finding work during a recession.
“People get hopeless and eventually give up,” Yegidis said.
Over the past decade, additional studies about domestic violence have shown:
According to Yegidis, so many cases of domestic abuse go unreported because family violence happens within the privacy of homes.
“Family violence is different than violence on the street,” Yegidis said. “It’s secretive. It happens at home because the aggressors can get away with it. Victims of family violence don’t report it because they are ashamed or embarrassed.”
Along with fear, financial strain may lead women to stay in destructive relationships.
“People are concerned with the repercussions,” Yegidis said. “They’re afraid [the aggressor] will do it worse next time by taking it out on the kids or killing the cat.”
Victoria Grimes, a 20-year-old woman juggling school and a taking care of her baby, said that the abusive relationship she had with the father of her child went on for far too long.
“He was living in a fantasy world,” said Grimes. “He wasn’t paying the bills and he was spending money on things he didn’t even need, rather than supporting us. It was hard. I got to the point where I knew I couldn’t be with him anymore.”
Repercussions of violence sometimes make it harder for those affected to get the resources needed. Some services are offered for individuals in abusive relationships, such as domestic violence shelters.
The Dawn Center is a shelter for women and children seeking to escape abusive situations. The shelter provides an outreach program, one-on-one and group support sessions and individual safety planning. It also has legal advocates in the court house and prevention programming aimed at reaching children and teenagers.
Michelle Rio, an administrator for the shelter, has seen an increase in capacity during the past few months.
“The Dawn Center has 40 beds,” Rio said. “We had 42 people in the shelter last month.”
Rio also said that “sometimes there is no rhyme or reason for violence, but the economy adds additional stressors to people’s lives.”
While fire and law enforcement officials are responding to natural disasters, University of South Florida officials are left wondering, Where are all the social workers?
Dr. Robin Ersing, associate professor and doctoral program chairwoman for USF’s School of Social Work, has dedicated her career to an area of the field that usually goes unnoticed—disaster social work.
She said that knowledge about different social problems and the ability to utilize different strategies are necessary to ensure community safety after a disaster.
“Most people pay attention to those directly affected by the trauma,” Ersing said. “It’s always about how many people died or were injured. But it’s also important to deal with the ‘walking wounded,’ those who are safe but looking for a way to rebuild their lives.”
In response to the prevalence of hurricanes in the South, specifically Hurricane Katrina in 2005, USF partnered with the American Red Cross to help students and communities better prepare for environmental crises.
The USF American Red Cross Club formed in 2007 and was the first time a student program partnered with a community organization. With more than 1,000 members, the club is the largest on campus.
Ersing serves as the faculty advisor.
The disaster services cluster of the club was designed to create a culture of preparedness for the campus. It allows members to educate themselves through Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training with Tampa Fire Rescue officials.
“Our students at USF are incredible and the passion is unbelievable,” Ersing said. “The students took it [to] another level to actually become trainers themselves.”
The club hosts mass training sessions for all USF students who wish to become CPR-certified. In just one day at the Marshall Student Center, the team successfully certified 250 students.
In addition to efforts on campus, the club members also play an active role in the community.
Ersing recalled one situation in which USF students assisted elderly residents after their retirement home went up in flames. The students evacuated the building and brought the residents to an alternate facility until additional arrangements could be made. But Ersing laments that the group went unrecognized.
“President Genshaft didn’t know about our student social workers helping out,” Ersing said. “She said, ‘Our students did that?’”
Paul Latham, emergency manager at USF, holds the club in the highest regard.
“The breadth of work that the Red Cross accomplishes is truly amazing,” Latham said. “It’s a model organization with vested participation. It makes sense to explore this ideology.”
Nourhan Abdelrahim, president of the USF American Red Cross club, said there’s a little something for everyone.
“The types of activities and services we provide are so varied that you would almost have to force yourself to not become interested in them,” Abdelrahim said. “Being part of this club shows that you have actually not just made a difference down the street but around the world.”
The club is not funded by the American Red Cross. Instead it relies on community outreach programs and fundraisers to raise necessary funds.
And because of their fundraising success, Ersing promises that at meetings, “there’s never a shortage of pizza.”
A University of South Florida student is still scratching after she was forced to check into a local hotel after her apartment became infested with bed bugs last month.
Jennifer (she asked that her real name not be used because she is concerned about her relations with her apartment managers), a 19-year-old computer science major at USF, and three roommates had their back-to-school jitters turned into back-to-school critters when they noticed they were sharing their off-campus home with creepy crawlers.
Jennifer lives in a four bedroom/four bathroom apartment with three other girls in a student housing apartment complex located off of Fletcher Avenue and 42nd Street in Tampa. (Jennifer does not want to name of the complex for fear of retribution.)
“I walked into my apartment crying,” said Jennifer. “I couldn’t breathe or sleep in there.”
Three of the four roommates checked into the Wingate Hotel on Fowler Avenue on August 24 when the apartment complex sprayed the apartment. One girl retreated 45 minutes away to her hometown to stay with family.
Jennifer said the infestation created a chaotic first week of school for all the girls.
“I’m stressed out because I had to finish all of my homework at the worst times,” Jennifer said. “It’s inconvenient for me. We’ve been living out of bags.”
Jennifer lived on-campus in Juniper Poplar last school year. She enjoyed living on-campus but wanted to see what it was like to maintain her own apartment.
Jennifer and her roommates apartment-hunted for three months before selecting their residence.
Jennifer never anticipated having pest problems. “I expected to have bug problems in the dorms but never in my own apartment.”
According to The Bed Bug Registry, an online public database allowing users to file bed bug reports, a main area of reported bed bug sitings in Tampa is around USF.
One report posted on Feb. 19, 2011 included the Clarion hotel, located across the street from USF at 2701 E Fowler Avenue. The report said: “Found several bugs in the bed in room 2100. After calling the front desk I was told that yes thed [sic] had had several incedents [sic] since January 2011.”
The Clarion’s hotel manager said the report is untrue and that the hotel has never had a single case of bed bugs.
Even though reports had been filed for the USF area, USF campus housing doesn’t seem to be affected.
According to Mark Hauser, associate director of housing and residential education and facilities maintenance, USF housing services has only received 213 work requests for pest control since August 8.
“With 5,400 students living on campus in housing that breaks down to less than 5 percent,” Hauser said.
The state of Florida has a contract with Terminix for all pest control issues. Because USF is a state-funded university, the school also contracts its services through Terminix.
According to Hauser, representatives from Terminix come to USF twice a week to collect work request forms. The representative assesses each request form in-person and attempts to speak with the student who filed it. The area is then treated.
If the situation doesn’t respond to treatment after a few days, the Terminix representative will “back-track” and check up on the area.
Hauser says the procedure to eliminate pests is to “treat aggressively, timely and safely with continuous follow up.”
Assistant Director of Housing Services April Sager said that, to her knowledge, there has never been a confirmed case of bed bugs at USF.
“I know it’s a problem in different states,” Sager said. “We receive literature on how to prevent bed bugs and want our students to know how to prevent them.”
An “Un-Birthday cake,” lit with numerical candles 1, 5 and 9 representing the 159 infant deaths in Hillsborough County in 2009, illuminated the room for speaker Tonya Lewis Lee, best-selling author and wife of award-winning film director Spike Lee.
Tonya Lewis Lee spoke Sept. 23 about infant mortality and the creation of the Preconception Peer Educators (PPE) program at the “Feed Your Future” event. She is the national spokeswoman for the “A Healthy Baby Begins with You” campaign sponsored by the federal Office of Minority Health (OMH). She also wrote the book, “Please, Baby, Please.”
Women’s E-news named Lee “1 of the 7 who rewrite the rules.”
“How could I not get the word out?” Lee said. “I’m a United States citizen working for my community.”
Lee developed the PPE program in response to the increasing infant mortality rates among minorities, specifically African Americans.
The definition of infant mortality, according to Lee, is “the death of a child before their first birthday.”
According to a World Health Organization report, the U.S. was ranked 40th in the world for the number of infant deaths in 2009. If the African American statistics were removed, the country would still be ranked 23rd behind Cuba, Poland and the entire industrialized world.
The current national infant mortality rate for all races is below seven per 1,000 live births. It is 14 for every 1,000 among African Americans.
“The U.S. is the worst in the world of developed countries,” said Charles Mahan, dean and professor emeritus of USF’s College of Public Health. “Infant mortality is two, three even four times higher for blacks than whites, and it should be equal.”
Lee works with the peer educators to raise awareness for preconception care. Since the program’s creation, 1,000 students from 60 colleges in 20 states have joined the movement.
“I’m emotional because it’s wonderful to see how this program has grown,” Lee said.
USF established a PPE chapter last year. It works with community educators to help students with proper exercise, good nutrition and preconception health.
“Feed Your Future” was the first big event on-campus for the preconception program.
“I really want to first shed light to the issue of infant mortality because most college kids don’t know about it,” said Belinda-Rose James, graduate student and president of USF’s PPE chapter. “I want to show people that they can do something about this.”
Dr. Arlene Lester, a regional minority health consultant for OMH, said, “It’s near and dear to my heart to see that work is being done on the ground to help the burden of infant mortality.”
Many organizations and community leaders were in attendance last night, including Estrellita “Lo” Berry, CEO of Reach Up and president of the National Healthy Start Association, the organization that made September the national infant mortality awareness month.
“In order for us to have better outcomes around infant mortality, we have to mobilize and take this issue personally and respond with a sense of urgency,” Berry said. “If we could tackle the inequities, that’s half the battle.”