From the outside, Leslie Morgan-Steiner‘s life looked enviable: the daughter of a judge, Steiner had done stints at Harvard and the University of Chicago, and had a job in the fast-paced New York magazine world. When she got engaged to her longtime boyfriend, her family and friends celebrated — and no one mentioned any of the signs that something was horribly wrong.
One of the biggest problems surrounding domestic violence is a culture of silence. Three years ago, Art and Pat Modell teamed up with the University of Maryland School of Social Work to launch a symposium aimed at breaking that silence. “Doctors, nurses and social workers have long recognized that asking patients ‘Is someone hurting you’ is one of the most important questions that we all should ask,” says Carole Alexander, a social work instructor at UMD. “Oftentimes though, we don’t ask our patients; friends don’t ask their friends, sisters or coworkers and parents almost never ask their children. We’re busy, uncomfortable, uncertain, and afraid of the answer.”
This year’s symposium, which takes place December 5 at UMD’s Southern Management Campus Center (621 W. Lombard St. in Baltimore), will feature speakers including Morgan-Steiner (who escaped from her husband after years of abuse, and subsequently wrote the bestseller Crazy Love) and Sharon Love, who will speak about the ONE LOVE foundation she launched after her daughter Yeardley’s murder. The symposium’s third speaker, therapist/researcher Evan Stark, takes a slightly different tack, exploring abuse that is more psychological or emotional in nature. Women in these relationships, Stark says, are “subjected to a pattern of domination that includes tactics to isolate, degrade, exploit and control them as well as to frighten them or hurt them physically,” and domestic violence programs need to find a way to identify and support them as well.
The symposium includes a breakfast of coffee and croissants, lunch, and free parking. High school students can attend for free, and might find both Love’s and Morgan-Steiner’s presentations particularly apt; they can also participate in a group discussion with social workers trained to talk with teens about “the dynamics of abuse, and the dangers in relying on peer group culture or idealizing romantic relationships.” For college students, non-profit service providers, and law enforcement, the cost is $25 for everyone else, it’s $50. For more details, check out the symposium website here.
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