SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Domestic violence is all around us, but the warning signs often go undetected.
The focus of the second annual Safe Campus Summit at UMass Springfield was domestic violence, sexual violence, and human trafficking. The summit was hosted by Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni in partnership with the Massachusetts Teachers Association, UMass Springfield, and the National Education Association. The all-day event was designed to teach education professionals how to help students in need.
The summit began with the tragic story of Mariah Girouard, who was forced to watch her ex-boyfriend kill her mother after she was in an unhealthy relationship with him for years. “She used all of her energy to move her eyes in the direction of the door,” recalled Girouard of her mother’s last moments alive. “In hindsight, I realized there were a lot of red flags that I had missed,” Girouard told 22News.
She shared her story with a room full of faculty from various colleges so that they could be more aware of the warning signs of domestic violence, and how to get victims help before it’s too late.
YWCA Domestic Violence Counselor Jessica Hernandez explained some of those warning signs to 22News: “Any kind of major changes in personality so maybe someone who is outspoken might become very withdrawn and shy or the opposite might happen, physical injuries like bruising or scratching or any type of redness.” She said victims often blame the wounds on an accident.
“It really empowers and enables our teachers in higher education specifically in this training to understand those issues really from the ground floor up and then deal with folks who might be experiencing those kids of problems and experiencing trauma,” Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said.
Gulluni said although we may not hear about it, human trafficking is a very serious issue in Hampden County that his office is trying to combat with a special task force.
As for domestic violence survivors, Mariah gave them hope. She said, “Trauma’s a journey and you can move on from that and go on to be successful and it doesn’t have to define you.”