UMPI domestic violence response training reaches out to health care workers

Posted April 29, 2011, at 5:21 p.m.
Last modified April 29, 2011, at 9:18 p.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A training session held at the University of Maine at Presque Isle on Friday gave social workers, students and health care professionals greater insight into the signs of domestic violence so they can be more proactive in responding to victims.

The four-hour session, which was organized by Dr. Lisa Leduc’s UMPI honors class on domestic violence, is expected to become an annual event.

About 35 people attended the session, “Health Care Response to Intimate Partner Violence: Reach Out, Recognize, Respond, Refer,” which was sponsored by the UMPI criminal justice program and the Hope and Justice Project.

“There are a number of things that are being taught in this training,” Leduc said. “The first part concentrates on reproductive coercion, which happens when the abuser coerces the victim so that she has no control over the number of children she has. That sort of abuse can consist of the abuser flushing birth control pills, refusing to wear condoms or sabotaging contraception. The second part focuses on the signs of domestic violence and how to reach out appropriately to the victims.

“The idea behind this training session is that health care providers have the potential to refer people for services if they see someone who needs help,” she continued. “Sometimes people feel more like opening up because they know it’s confidential when they talk to their health care provider, so this is a way to ensure people are trained for that.”

The event included presentations by trainers with the Hope and Justice Project, Spruce Run and the Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center. It also featured a reader’s theater, where stories of domestic violence and responses were shared. Several UMPI criminal justice students performed in the theater activity.

All of the students involved in the event are keeping a journal and writing a reflection paper that explains how this project relates to what they learned in class.

Flora Bragg, a junior criminal justice major, called the training “eye-opening.”

“It really did open my eyes to the prevalence of domestic violence in Aroostook County,” she said. “I was especially impacted by the information on reproductive coercion. I had heard of it but didn’t know the extent to which it occurred or how multifaceted it could be.”

Ryan Kilcollins, another junior criminal justice major, agreed.

“This is the first class I have really had that has been this in-depth,” he said. “So this training has added to that information. I have learned that some of the signs of domestic violence are that the victim is often timid and they can’t keep their story straight about how their injuries occurred.”

Another criminal justice student, Christina Hall, said her reader’s theater session was very insightful.

“It actually hit home to me and made me realize the trauma that many women are going through,” she noted. “I think that we have to do more to reach out to people.”

“There is more going on behind closed doors than I think a lot of people realize,” Bragg added.

Kilcollins said he thinks that males don’t always take domestic violence as seriously as females do.

“I didn’t take it as seriously in the past as I probably should have,” he acknowledged. “My eyes have definitely been opened.”

The students’ efforts are part of a service learning project they’re completing for their class, said Leduc, who is an associate professor of criminal justice at the college. Every two years, Leduc’s students conduct a service learning project with the Hope and Justice Project.

This year, when the 13 students in her class talked with the Hope and Justice Project about how they could help, officials said they could use some assistance in organizing a training session for health care providers on domestic violence. The Hope and Justice Project provided the actual training, but the students handled the planning, logistics and registration efforts.