Intimate Partner Violence on College Campuses
23 November 2019,
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We hear a lot about assaults on college campuses these days, but most people still tend to think of sexual assault by a stranger or acquaintance when the topic is discussed.  While sexual assault on college campuses is indeed a huge issue, there is also a serious problem with intimate partner violence, sometimes called dating violence. Unfortunately, there is a lack of reporting when dating violence occurs among college students, and many victims are unaware they are even being abused.  Research tells us that women ages 16 to 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence per capital. Additionally, 53% of domestic violence victims have also experienced abuse in a previous relationship. This points to a larger systematic issue that creates vicious cycles for victims of intimate partner violence.  There are several factors that influence these high rates of abuse that are common characteristics of college life and campus living, such as heavy alcohol use. It is important to understand the warning signs of an abusive partner as well as what to do if you or someone you love is the victim of intimate partner violence in college

Recognizing Abuse

An important aspect of preventing intimate partner violence is learning to identify it, as well as spot the warning signs that a relationship may be escalating towards violence.  Dating violence is usual preceded by verbal abuse and threats. If your partner is calling you names, putting you down, using intimidating body language, or breaking things during arguments, these are considered red flags for domestic violence.  Additionally, a partner that attempts to cut you off from your friends and family, or seems very possessive of your time, might be trying to isolate you and cut off your resources so you have nowhere to turn when the situation escalates. Individuals prone to abuse are also likely to be controlling and jealous, and may constantly suspect you of being unfaithful or overreact if someone else shows interest in you.  Alcohol and drugs are often present in violent relationships, and you may begin noticing your partner being more volatile when they are drunk or high.  

Many people who are in abusive relationships aren’t prepared to fully acknowledge their abuse.  This is why a great deal of intimate partner violence goes unreported. Domestic abuse can be sexual, physical, or emotional.  If your partner has ever forced you to have sex, hit you, or been violent towards you in any way, you are experiencing abuse. If you find yourself in a perpetual state of emotional turmoil because of your partner’s erratic behavior, verbal assaults, controlling tendencies, or manipulative mind games, you are very likely in an abusive relationship.  People in abusive relationships often have a great deal of love for their partner and will make excuses for their behavior. If you find yourself justifying actions that are causing you pain or putting you in danger, it is worth seeking a second opinion about the state of your relationship.

Seeking Help in College

Many college students face obstacles when attempting to seek help to leave an abusive relationship, report assault, and receive mental health care after trauma.  College life has a way of making students feel isolated while also feeling intrinsically tied to campus social groups. This means that a student suffering from intimate partner violence may feel like they have nobody to talk to, or that if they were to report their partner, they would be forced to deal with social repercussions such as losing friends or angering their partner’s friends.  If the perpetrator is also a student, it may be difficult to act against them without word spreading all over campus. Additionally, students often worry about their parents finding out about the abuse, or the situation affecting their academic success.  

While reporting abuse isn’t always easy, it is absolutely necessary to preserve your mental health, and in some cases, save your own life.  If you think you might be a victim of intimate partner violence, speak to a school counselor, mental health professional, or law enforcement immediately.  If you suspect a friend may be experiencing abuse, it is important that you put their safety before the possibility of offending them and report your suspicions to a school official or the police as soon as possible.  

Abuse and Addiction

Domestic violence and addiction have a long and tragic relationship.  People who are abused are far more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their pain and trauma, and abusers are often addicted to drugs or alcohol and acting on their own unresolved trauma as well.  College campuses have a far higher rate of alcohol use than the general population, making abuse and assault more likely to occur. Research on alcohol use and intimate partner violence found that physical and psychological aggression are almost four times more likely to occur in a relationship on days when alcohol is consumed.  Many victims of dating violence on college campuses continue to struggle with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder long after their abuse, and without professional help, they may go on to struggle with a lifetime of addiction as a result. 

If you believe you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, now is the time to reach out for help.  At Burning Tree West, you will find a team of compassionate, knowledgeable professionals who specialize in helping young adults struggling with addiction and their families.  Here, our clients tackle their addictions head-on and harness the power to restructure their lives in a way that fosters lasting sobriety. We believe that practicing recovery doesn’t have to mean an end to educational or career goals, but instead can become a fundamental part of a successful and fulfilling life.  For more information on how we can help, call us now at 888-530-9424

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