‘These are our daughters’: Harvard psychiatry professor Eve Valera speaks at Southern about intimate partner violence

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On Jan. 18, Eve Valera, a psychiatry professor at Harvard University, came to Southern Adventist University to speak to students about intimate partner violence. She was one of many guests invited to Southern on behalf of the Title IX office for Sexual Integrity Week. This year’s theme for Sexual Integrity Week was “When Sexual Integrity is Absent.”  

Dennis Negrón, vice president for Student Development and Title IX coordinator, and the Title IX team organized events throughout the week, such as a panel that responded to “student questions on how sexual violence and harassment is handled on this campus,” held Jan. 17. For Thursday convocation, Susan Norris, founder and executive director of Rescuing Hope Inc., discussed how pornography leads to sex trafficking.

Valera’s presentation focused on brain injuries caused by intimate partner violence and their long-lasting effects on victims. Her two main points focused on Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and how strangulation can lead to Acquired Brain Injuries (ABI). 

Valera explained that women who experience TBIs and ABIs report high rates of cognitive, physical and emotional problems. These injuries are caused by continuous trauma to the head as a result of blunt trauma from a partner or strangulation that causes irregular blood flow to the brain. 

Due to these cognitive, physical and emotional problems, Valera said women who have suffered TBIs and ABIs have a harder time being taken seriously by law enforcement when they seek support. Problems that arise after experiencing an ABI or TBI include memory problems, impaired judgment, aggressive and inappropriate behavior and dizziness. 

Valera told the audience at Ackerman Auditorium that intimate partner violence can happen to anybody, regardless of gender, race and socioeconomic class. However, she also said people of color are more likely to experience it. 

“It’s absolutely true that some people experience more,” Valera said. “The people who are disproportionately impacted are people of color. But it does not matter if you’re rich or poor. It is a global public health epidemic, and it affects every country, every nation and every social stratum.”

It’s important for both men and women to educate themselves on intimate partner violence issues, especially since the numbers for partner violence have been rising during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Valera.

“The likelihood of violence or murder [is] increasing,” Valera said. “ … So, just be more aware of the fact that this is not getting better for women, unfortunately. I think women are going to be in an even worse situation this year and in the years to come, based on some Supreme Court rulings.” 

Valera acknowledged the wall that can exist when someone wants to help a victim but does not know if they should. She encouraged individuals to seek help and assistance. 

“These are our daughters, our sisters, our colleagues, our friends and people we know; it’s all around us. And it’s stigmatizing,” Valera said. “Often, we’ll never know about it, especially when we don’t ask.”

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