Healthy Relationships: Yes and Knows
Dating abuse is defined as a pattern of abusive behaviors, usually a series of abusive behaviors over a course of time, used to exert power and control over a dating partner (Office on Violence Against Women, 2014). The issue is widespread specially among individuals between the ages of 19 and 24, however, many young adults are unable to recognize abuse. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 57% of college students say dating abuse is difficult to identify and 58% say they don’t know how to help someone who’s experiencing it. People with disabilities are specially at risk and are three times more likely to experience abuse in any form (Center on Victimization and Safety, 2017). In 2012, 1.3 million violent crimes, including rape and physical assault, occurred against people with disabilities (Center on Victimization and Safety, 2012).
Research and national statistics illustrate that many college students may not fully understand what constitutes dating abuse and this may put them at risk. With this goal in mind, Disability Services hosted the event titled Healthy Relationships: Yes and Knows in collaboration with Student Victim Assistance on Wednesday, September 27, 2017. The event was intended to highlight the behaviors and patterns that fall under dating abuse, introduce the elements of healthy relationships and provide resources to everyone on campus who may be a victim of dating violence.
Jennifer Bodnar, M.S. from the Counseling and Testing Center, Student Victim Assistance program and Bradley Young, a graduate assistant from the Department of Student Health Promotion, led the group in discussion. The Student Victim Assistance program offers crisis intervention, advocacy and support for students who have experienced any type of recent or past victimization. Ms. Bodner and Mr. Young opened the discussion to the group by asking the participants what consent means in our intimate relationships. The group acknowledged that it is best to give consent explicitly and verbally and that consent cannot be given when an individual is intoxicated. Next, Ms. Bodner described the various phases of the cycle of violence, a social cycle theory developed by Lenore E. Walker in 1979, which describes the common behavioral patterns in violent relationships. The cycle of violence starts with the tension building phase (the person feels like they are walking on eggshells with their partner), which leads to the explosion phase and eventually to the honeymoon phase (the partner is apologetic). The longer the individual is in the unhealthy relationship, the faster the cycle (Violence Prevention Initiative, 2014). Ms. Bodnar also introduced some red flags or warning signs which may contribute to the cycle of violence listed on the National Domestic Violence Hotline website.
Red flags discussed:
- Requiring a partner to check in frequently
- Pressuring a partner to do things they do not want to do
- Getting angry when you spend time with your friends and family, etc.
The group was then asked to self-reflect about some of their own boundaries, which can help facilitate communication in current and future relationships.
At the conclusion of the event, 71% of attendees reported the information presented at the event significantly helped them with their relationships. The other 28.57% stated it moderately helped them with their relationships. However, 100% of all attendees reported having a better understanding of dating abuse and what a healthy relationship entails. Participants also expressed an interest in attending further events concerning dating and healthy relationships as it would help them improve their own relationships (Office of Disability Services, 2017).
Students who wish to learn more about dating abuse may contact Jennifer Bodnar in the Counseling and Testing Services Office at 404-413-1640.