Women tackle domestic violence with 'Java and Justice' coffeehouse
Violent relationships often begin with an intense need to feel desired, said School of Arts and Science sophomore Jillian Avila to an audience of more than 150 at the Java and Justice Coffeehouse on Monday evening.
With a goal of raising awareness about gender-based violence, the Java and Justice Coffeehouse — an annual event that took place at Trayes Hall in the Douglass Student Center — was organized by the Peer Academic Leaders of Douglass Residential College in collaboration with the Center for Women's Global Leadership.
The CWCL is a part of the Institute for Women's Leadership, a Rutgers-based consortium of academic and policy centers, dedicated to advocating and advancing women's leadership, according IWL's Strategic Planning Report.
Monday evening's event, with a coffeehouse-like atmosphere, showcased various forms art, including paintings, spoken word, and music. Live, Twitter hashtag-based quizzes and a table of refreshments entertained attendees during several intermissions throughout the night.
The annual coffeehouse has occurred for over four years, said Danielle Bouza, a PAL and School of Communication and Information senior.
“The purpose of this event is to raise awareness about gender based violence and discriminations,” she said.
Monday’s event was a shared effort between the Douglass Residential College and The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, a campaign led by the CWGL.
The CWGL is observing the 25th anniversary of The Campaign, first coordinated at the Rutgers Center for Women’s Global Leadership. In its 25-year history, it has brought together participation from more than 6,000 organizations, including activists, United Nation programs, and students, according to United Nation's project, peacewoman.org.
Though this year's event featured only female artists, the annual event welcomes any individuals—non-DRC members and males — to present their art, Bouza said.
“Through this event we are trying to raise discussion and raise awareness about the important issues within our society today,” Bouza said.
Avila, a member of the Douglass Residential College, was the first act of the night. She presented an original poem based her personal experiences.
“I had been looking for a platform to share my piece, and the coffeehouse was a perfect outlet for my work”, said Avila, who said she hopes to be a PAL in the next academic year.
Avila's poem shared personal experiences with gender-based hardships and highlighted the tell-tale signs of an abusive relationship.
She said people experience violence when they are vulnerable, adding that it is important for people to understand themselves before they can commit to a romantic relationship.
Discussions about gender-based violence are crucial, but conversations about it are rare today because of the stigma that still surrounds the issue, Avila said.
“People are uncomfortable about it — they are afraid others will not side with them, and they are often times afraid to admit that they’re in these types of situations,” she said.
While Java and Justice Coffeehouse focused on gender-based violence, another event being organized by the PALs of Douglass Residential College, Douglass Wellness 360, in the upcoming spring will focus on wellness on an individual scale, Bouza said.
“Violence in any type of relationship is wrong. First step to discussion is awareness and education—people need to know that the violence is really happening,” Bouza said. “Especially since the performers for the coffeehouse are peers, the audience can relate to their stories at a deeper level.”
Minna Kim is an Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy first-year student. She is a staff writer for The Daily Targum.