Dr. Elizabeth Athaide-Victor, Professor of Tiffin University’s School of Criminal Justice and Social Sciences, created a Distinguished Lecture Series for her psych violence and aggression class. The series was an attempt to stimulate student interest in how and why violence happens.
The class was divided into five groups and created one External Professional Sharing Experience, which was open to the public. The speakers for these experiences include: Frida Gashumba, survivor of Rwanda Genocide; Martin Lowenberg, Holocaust survivor; Corine Dehabey, survivor of the Syrian War and a Syrian Refugee Resettlement Coordinator; and Claudia Vercellotti, Victim Rights Advocate who helped prosecute the notorious case of a priest killing a nun in Toledo.
“My number was 3698. We started every day and ended every night with roll call to make sure no one was escaping. We were slaves.” Lowenberg shared his story about his suffering in a concentration camp.
“Never in the history of mankind has there been an event when so many lives were destroyed. How can anyone imagine destroying someone’s life? Today, people are still being persecuted, children are being hurt. What for? Why? In a way we have an answer: hate. I lost my family to hate, 28 members vanished.”
Lowenberg discussed Kristallnacht, night of broken glass; a memory he will never forget. Outside was havoc; everything was destroyed and people were injured. Jews were dragged through the streets, beaten and synagogues burned; over 90 people were dead within two days. “So much happened that night because of hate.” A few years later, Lowenberg was taken to a concentration camp and was liberated into Sweden at the age of 17 by the Red Cross. He found his sister who was also liberated and they traveled to America to live with their older sister who was an au pair. “Hope kept me going; you never give up, you cannot give up. Tomorrow can be quite different; there is always a better day ahead. Hate hurts, but love heals.”
In the darkest of times, one can still find happiness and hope. Corine Dehabey, a Syrian Refugee Resettlement Coordinator, restores hope in the time of war.
“The Syrian War is one of the worst refugee crises since WWII.” The war started in 2010; since then, hundreds of thousands of refugees fled to the United States. In response to the growing needs of refugees and immigrants, Dehabey created a refugee resettlement agency in Toledo, US Together Inc. Her program became a symbol of hope for refugees and a model for refugee services.
“It’s not easy to see my homeland go through this; it’s a big ache in the heart.” Terrorism is gradually destroying Syria. Terrorists are targeting children and college students, bombing their schools. “We’re praying that God will intervene with the war and that peace will be there again. Syria will come back, we didn’t lose it. Syria will be stronger.”
Vercellotti is a Tiffin University alum, a victim rights advocate and the spokesperson for Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
Vercellotti shared her fascinating experiences in crime and justice. Her work was the focus of the Oscar-nominated film, “Twist of Faith,” about Tony Combes, a Toledo firefighter who was sexually abused as a child by a priest. Vercellotti testified in court numerous times, including the Ohio Supreme Court, advocating for extending the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases. She also played an integral part in the prosecution of Father Gerald Robinson for the murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, a case that received national attention and resulted in accolades for Vercellotti.
“Advocacy has been my vocation in some capacity for my entire adult life,” she said. “Whether I’m advocating for crime victims’ rights, patient rights or the rights of kids, I love the opportunity to shape policy and influence important dialogues that can directly impact the quality of life for many. I love affecting change and seeing that change implemented.”