Aviano Airmen raise domestic violence awareness with Black Eye Campaign

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Deana Heitzman
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Imitation bruises, black eyes and scratches painted the faces of more than 15 male and female volunteers to educate individuals for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, during the second annual Black Eye Campaign here, in October.

Airmen, civilian employees and spouses roamed the base to see if bystanders would step up and ask them if they were OK.

"This is a one-day social experiment that brings awareness about domestic violence and shows how seldom people are willing to step out or offer assistance," said Keith Baronsky, the 31st Medical Operations Squadron Family Advocacy Program outreach manager.

Participants were asked to document responses from people who approached them. More specifically, participants made note of those who asked if they were OK, or rather, just ignored, starred at or made fun of for their marks and bruises.

According to the Baronsky, with the 2013 campaign, 20 percent of those who came in contact with people with injuries asked about them; and 8 percent of people laughed or joked about their injuries. With the 2013 campaign results in mind, Baronsky set-out to raise awareness on domestic violence and improve the overall percentage of people willing to step up to help a potential victim.

"I believe that it is hard to approach a stranger and sometimes harder to approach a friend,” Baronsky said. “Staying properly educated on what to do after a victim is involved in domestic violence is very important.

Throughout the year, Baronsky and her team helped educate leaders, first sergeants and various agencies on what to do when domestic violence has affected someone in their squadron or work environment. She informed them to encourage victims to tell their primary care provider and talk to the 31st MDOS Family Advocacy Program Office.

After the campaign, participants met to discuss their experiences. Some shared stories of success, while others shared negative encounters.

"While walking in (the exchange), I overheard someone say 'guess she was wrong,' after they saw my black eye," said Staff Sgt. Kristen Campagna, a participant from the 31st Operation Support Squadron. "It made me so angry and very emotional. Even though these marks are fake, they start to feel real when you see the reactions or hear the comments from other people."

Although majority of the negative comments were told from strangers, participants relied on their wingmen to ask what was wrong.

"Most of the people you don't know won't approach you," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Callan, a volunteer from the 31st Fighter Wing. "The people that asked if I was okay were the people I worked with."

This year, participants encountered 342 individuals with 36 percent stepping up to ask about their bruises. The percentage of those making light of the injuries dropped to 6 percent.

"I am glad I participated in this campaign," Campagna said. "When I see someone with marks on their face, I will be more active to approached them and ask what is going on. I hope this did the same to other people."