By Jessica Fetrow
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and college students are among the most susceptible groups to fall victim to partner abuse or violence. Furthermore, females ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, domestic violence is “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another.” Approximately three out of four Americans know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence, and nearly one third of college students report having physically assaulted a partner in the past twelve months alone.
The warning signs of domestic abuse may not be as obvious as expected, and often do not happen all at once. Warning signs within a relationship of potential abuse include being bullied by a partner, being manipulated by a partner, being threatened by a partner, being pressured or forced to have sex, and being physically abused by a partner, through ways such as hitting, kicking, and punching. Warning signs that a friend or family member may be a victim of abuse include personality changes, excuses for injuries, absence from social outings for no clear reason, and constant check-ins with their partner.
College students often face added difficulties when dealing with an abusive or violent relationship. According to the University of Michigan’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awarenes Center, college students are often more hesitant to tackle domestic assault because they may have a smaller social network. This is due to the closed environment of a college campus atmosphere that may make students feel isolated from their personal support networks while being away from home. Students also may not define their experience as abusive, fear the assailant, or fear that administrators may not understand the extent of the issue and therefore not react appropriately.
If you know or suspect that you or a loved one are in an abusive relationship, there are several steps that can be taken and easily accessible resources. Resources such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline offers immediate 24-hour assistance at 1-800-799-7233, as well as “Safety Plans” online. The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department webpage also offers connections to local shelters, contacts, and phone numbers.
For immediate on-campus assistance, DPS is available 24/7 at 202-319-5111 and will contact MPD if necessary.