Women's rights organization hosts panel on abuse
Abuse against women on college campuses is more rampant today then ever before, said Suraiya Baluch, the director of Sexual Harassment and Assault advising at Princeton University. "Thirty-two percent of college students reported that they were abused, and 21 percent said they are still in violent relationships," she said.A panel discussion presented by Rutgers University Programming Association and Manavi, a New Jersey-based women's right organization on Monday night, addressed the issue of abuse against women, with a focus on South Asian women in particular.The panel of speakers discussed the different forms of abuse women are subject to and how certain societal norms can be perceived as abuse.Manavi formed in an effort to end all forms of violence against South Asian women living in the United States, according to the group's Web site. South Asian women identify themselves as native to Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan or Sri Lanka. The organization offers immigration and family attorneys to these women free of cost."Abuse against women is prevalent in all cultures, however, the problem of patriarchy isn't talked of much," said Manavi intern Vitya Marugan, a Rutgers College junior.The abuse many women face has a lasting affect on their ability to function normally in society, Baluch said. "We have seen instances where women have been locked in their dorm rooms and only allowed out to attend class," she said. Many South Asian women do not report the abuse because of fear, stemming from legal status or cultural norms and are unaware of services offered to them if they do come forward, said Minu Mathew, the outreach coordinator for Manavi. Lisa Smith, of the University's Sexual Assault Services and Crime Victim Assistance, said 16 to 24-year-old women are most vulnerable to abuse. Women need to be more careful about the information they post on the Internet, she said."College students are abused on a daily basis. We've had cases where students refuse to come forward because their partners know their whereabouts," Smith said. "We offer 24-hour crisis assistance, medical and crime - women just need to take a step forward." Joty Sohi, a Douglass College junior, said panel discussions on this topic need to be encouraged. "Women are generally scared of coming forward with their complaints," she said. "A platform such as this can help them overcome their fears."Julie Rajan, the discussion moderator and author of numerous books on feminism and violence, said there is a need for a collective approach toward ending abuse. "Unless we provide the facilities and protection for women, they will never come forward," she said.RUPA Rep. Sangeetha Subramanian, a Douglass College senior, emphasized that women have to be brave and take the initiative. Subramanian said cultural taboos must be dealt with. "I had to face wrath from my grandmother, after I refused to be part of a ritual, which I thought was abusive toward me," Subramanian said. "I chose to be brave and speak up, but many other women choose to stay quiet and accept the abuse." "These abused women just have to step up, and we'll do the rest," Mathew said.