October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The goal of this month is to bring attention to relationship abuse. This gives us the opportunity to connect victims to advocates, educate people on the reality of the problem, and to empower those who have survived. Nationwide, more than half of the students who report having experienced domestic violence say that it occurred while in college. Being aware of the signs of domestic abuse and the resources available is the best way to keep you and the people you love in safe and healthy relationships.
Unfortunately, domestic violence is not uncommon. One in four women and one in seven men will experience relationship violence in their lifetimes. The most common assumption about domestic violence is that an abusive relationship consists only of an uncontrollable man with a raging temper. Domestic violence and emotional abuse affect every age, sex, race, and culture. Abusive behaviors are actions one person takes in a relationship to control the other person physically and emotionally.
Being able to tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships can be complicated at times. No two relationships are the same. More than half of all college students say it is difficult to identify dating abuse. Although there are many different red flags, these are common warning signs of dating abuse:
- Checking cell phones, emails or social networks without permission
- Isolation from family or friends
- Extreme possessiveness, jealousy or insecurity
- Explosive temper
- Using intimidation to instill fear
- Physically inflicting pain or harm in any way
- Telling someone what they can and cannot do, say or wear
- Blames you for their actions (“You made me do this,” or “You make me act this way,” etc.).
- CrazyMaking (their words and actions make you feel like you’re going crazy)
- Repeatedly pressuring or coercing someone to have sex
According to the Domestic Violence Hotline, 38% of college students say they don’t know how to get help for themselves if they are victims of dating abuse, and 58% say they don’t know how they would help someone else if that person were a victim.
The first step is to start the conversation. Tell them what you have noticed that concerns you and ask them if they recognize those same behaviors. Connect them to resources and share healthy relationship characteristics.
Second, be supportive of those that are in an abusive relationship. Often times those in a relationship do not recognize the abuse. Do not be judgmental of persons in an abusive relationship. Instead, be supportive and keep your door for communication open.
Third, be aware of and share the resources that are available to those at risk. Outside help may not feel like the best choice, but these situations are serious, so it is important to call professionals for support.
Abuse is never the fault of the victim. If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence or relationship abuse, help is available. You can file a report by calling Campus Safety at 616-395-7770, or you can reach out to one of our confidential campus resources:
Counseling Center (CAPS): DeWitt Center – 2nd floor, 616-395-7945
Campus Ministries: Keppel House, 616-395-7145
Confidential Advocate: Christian Gibson, DeWitt Center – 1st floor, 616-395-7800