Ithaca, N.Y. — The reported killing of a Cornell student by her boyfriend last week has highlighted the need for domestic violence victims in our community to know where to turn, according to Heather Campbell, executive director of the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County.

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“There is help and there is support,” Campbell said, stressing that she was speaking of domestic violence in general and has no specific knowledge of the recent case. “I think that message is really important.”

You can reach the advocacy center’s hotline here: 607.277.5000

Here are 4 other things Campbell said it would be valuable for The Voice to publicly relay in the wake of the Thanksgiving Day tragedy:

1 — Learn to avoid myths about domestic violence

Campbell said “cultural myths and cultural narratives” often distort the reality of domestic violence.

“There’s still a myth that a victim will do something to quote unquote ‘set their partner off’ or somehow cause them to blame (the partner) — and that is just such a myth and does not describe what we know about domestic violence victims,” Campbell said.

“No matter if someone makes you angry or hurts your feelings, people always have a choice to not respond with violence or hurting their partner.”

It’s very problematic, Campbell said, when “those myths start to leak in and and people start talking about people being pushed too far that they snapped.”

“That’s a very dangerous way to understand partner violence,” she said.

2 — Prevalence of domestic violence in Tompkins County

In one year alone, more than 800 people receive support and services from the Tompkins advocacy center, according to Campbell.

“And that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Campbell says. “Those are the people who found us, who picked up the phone …there are likely more victims out there who haven’t been in a place to reach out for the support.”

Campbell added that local sheriff’s deputies, state troopers and other officers respond to a call for domestic violence every night.

“Ithaca can feel very friendly and very safe — and it is, in many ways. But domestic violence is happening here and it’s very real and very pressing in our communities,” Campbell said.

3 — Other myths not to believe

Campbell said another false myth that gets perpetuated about domestic violence is that the public can discern who is likely to be a perpetrator.

“Some of the myths are that we can always tell when we’re interacting with someone he’s a … ‘good guy’ who wouldn’t be violent,” Campbell said.

“Domestic violence offenders don’t look like monsters. They look like our neighbors.”

4 — We are all bystanders

Campbell said that while most people aren’t either victims or perpetrators of domestic violence, “we’re all bystanders in one way or another.”

Campbell encouraged people to do everything they could to speak up “if they have concerns about a family member or a friend or a colleague.”

Also important, she said, is “standing up and challenging the myths and misinformation and challenging the belief that help excuse domestic violence and allow people to look away.”

“It’s a challenge to us as a community – how do we continue our work to prevent domestic violence in our community going forward?,” she said.


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.