Domestic violence is the secret no one wants to share. No one wants to believe it happens to their friends or roommates. No one wants to admit when they are a victim.
Avoiding the discussion doesn’t stop it from happening, however.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you need to know how to handle the situation. The problem is that if leaders and peers aren’t communicating the signs of dating abuse, you might not know it is even present in your life or among your peers.
While plenty of discussion buzzes around college campuses on topics like stress and mental health, little is being done to spread the awareness of domestic and dating violence. The discussion needs to be prevalent among young adults for the following reasons:
- College-Aged Women Experience Higher Rates of Domestic Violence Than Any Other Age Group. Women ages 18-24 experience the highest rates of domestic abuse. For this reason especially, the discussion needs to be ongoing on college campuses. While men are also susceptible to dating abuse, studies show that more than 95 percent of victims are female.
Students don’t have the security of their parents being close by when they arrive at college, so they need to find someone who they can feel comfortable going to with anything. Seek out your resident advisor or hall director immediately and establish a relationship with them. An adult who is designated to look after your dorm building is more likely to be near when you need him or her.
- Physical Violence Isn’t the Only Type of Dating Abuse. A case of abuse may go unreported because the abuser didn’t physically attack the victim, and she doesn’t see it as abuse. However, many cases of abuse are verbal, causing emotional and psychological harm.
If someone is intentionally causing you fear, degradation and humiliation, you are experiencing abuse. Get out of the relationship or report the person to make it stop before the abuse escalates to physical violence.
- You Don’t See the Signs. Women don’t want to believe someone they care for is intentionally hurting them, so what may be a clear sign to an outsider is dismissed by the victim. School leaders need to communicate the signs of dating violence frequently, so both victims and friends are aware when someone is abusive.
Talk to your friend if you notice her boyfriend is jealous, if he calls and texts her several times an hour or if he is frequently aggressive by punching walls or throwing things. If you notice these signs in your own relationship, get out now.
- Most Cases Go Unreported. Only about half the cases of dating violence are actually reported to authorities. For a number of reasons, victims don’t want to report their abuser. Often, victims are ashamed and can’t believe it happened to them. Other times, they want to forget it ever happened and move on.
When cases go unreported, the victims also likely don’t get the physical or psychological treatment they need. This makes it hard for the victim to move on. From constantly fearing another interaction with the abuser on a small college campus to depression and lack of focus in studies, domestic violence has an insurmountable impact on victims.
If you or someone you know is a victim of dating violence, start by reporting to your school or the police. Law enforcement takes domestic violence charges seriously, so you should too. It can be scary knowing that a conviction could result in a possible jail term of 6 months or more for the perpetrator, but it’s the right thing to do. Your bravery could prevent someone else from being harmed in the future.
After reporting the case, seek out a counselor. Many college campuses offer free counseling for students in which the discussion is confidential. Take advantage of what your campus has to offer so you can feel safe and fulfill what you came there to do.
- Students Don’t Know How to Help. 52 percent of college women reported knowing someone who has been a victim of dating abuse, but the majority of students on a college campus say they don’t know how to help.
The best way to help is to be supportive. Listen to your friend and show that you believe what she is saying. Reassure her that what happened is not her fault.
Domestic violence can have long-lasting consequences that affect you far after your college years. Less communication on the subject results in more cases occurring and more shattered lives. If you notice your school is lacking in awareness, step up and get the ball rolling. Forming a support group or bringing in guest speakers are great ways to get started. When girls see other people talking about it, they feel safer and less ashamed to bring up their own experience.
Spread the word to stop dating violence and allow college to be the fun experience it is meant to be.
Featured Image via Screengrab of Cherry Wine by Hozier