Project H.O.P.E. (Helping Other People Everywhere), Seton Hill University’s (SHU) social work club is hosting Gary Cuccia Feb. 6 from 4- 6 p.m. in Cecillian Hall. Cuccia has been speaking out against dating violence since his daughter was brutally murdered by an ex-boyfriend in 2007, right after her 16th birthday.
“Our biggest hope is to bring further awareness to dating violence. If even one person hears the message and is spurred to get help than we have made progress. Sometimes people need to hear the message in a different way through a new story,” said Robbyn Slavin, president of Project H.O.P.E.
According to Cuccia’s website, demibrae.com, women in the 16-24 year-old range are the most likely to experience abuse from their romantic partner. Slavin thinks this happens because they don’t recognize what dating violence is.
“Dating violence is an issue for college students because sometimes the behaviors are not recognized as such and overlooked. Victims of dating violence tend to feel that they don’t have a right to help since they willing began a relationship,” she said.
Though SHU has a close and productive relationship with the Blackburn Center, which provides help and support for victims of domestic abuse, Project H.O.P.E. wanted to bring in a new perspective, hoping that Cuccia’s story would touch viewers, according to Slavin.
“Our decision to bring a domestic violence speaker to SHU was more about the personal story that accompanies this speaker. Dr. Cuccia and Demi’s story not only speak about dating violence but is also a local tragedy that show things like this happen close to our community,” she said.
Cuccia’s daughter Demi’s story doesn’t seem like one that could happen nearby. She was viciously stabbed after breaking up with her boyfriend who had been becoming increasingly controlling, sometimes texting her 30 times an hour.
Since his daughter’s death, Cuccia has talked to 60,000 students at nearly 70 school assemblies. He started the Demi Brae Cuccia Awareness Organization which has a website and Facebook page to spread awareness of the warning signs of dating violence and abuse. He and his family have even worked with Pennsylvania government to establish more education for high school students particularly.
This event is just one of several service activities that Project H.O.P.E., a club open to all majors, will complete throughout the year. They recently travelled to the Children’s Institute in Pittsburgh where they did activities with the patients. They are currently planning a trip to the Men’s Mission in Latrobe to provide a BBQ for the men there.