Addressing Domestic & Dating Violence Against Women on College Campuses

Domestic and Dating Violence on Women

Posted on 8 December 2015 |

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campus dating domestic violenceWhen it comes to what students get out of college, the reality is often very different than the vaunted ideal.

We all know the ideal: college is supposed to be a time when young adults learn, grow and hopefully find themselves and begin setting the stage for an exciting and rewarding career and life.

For the large number of women who are victims of domestic violence on campus, however, the reality can be much different. Rather than leaving college feeling more confident and stronger, they may struggle with low self esteem or depression and many other physical and mental health issues.

And many women who date on campus become victims of some form of dating violence or abuse:

  • 43% report violence and abusive dating behaviors
  • 39% say they have been in an abusive dating relationship
  • 52% say they have friends who have experienced dating violence or abuse

The grim reality painted by numbers like those above, which are from a 2011 survey, prompted congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 2013 with strong bipartisan support.

A Strong Call to Action for Colleges and Universities

For higher education institutions, the VAWA renewal has been a call to action to do more to track and curtail domestic violence on campus. Today, the government requires colleges and universities to collect data about dating and domestic violence on campus and include a detailed breakdown of different types of incidents in their annual Clery Act reporting.

Beyond reporting, new students and employees must also be offered training programs that help them spot and prevent abusive behavior, including dating and domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and rape. Training is critical to stopping the cycle of violence against women in the socially complex campus environment. After all, faculty and staff juggling heavy workloads may not be aware of their responsibilities or how to respond to incidents, and students are often unaware of and unprepared for the types of sexuality-related issues and challenges they may face.

(You can learn more about overall VAWA requirements by watching our webinar here.)

What to Cover in Training

To change the status quo, training programs must address a range of requirements that are designed to help create more responsive and respectful campus environments. Let’s briefly explore some of the key concepts that training must cover.

Defining dating & domestic violence

To reduce domestic and dating violence, which is also known as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), students and employees need to clearly understand what it is. For example, many people may not know that domestic and dating violence don’t even require sexual intimacy. It’s about patterns of physical, psychological or sexual behavior that are used to maintain control. 

The definition of consent

Since ideas and laws related to consent vary across the country, to remove ambiguity VAWA requires that training define what consent means with respect to sexual activity in a specific institution’s jurisdiction.  

Signs of an abusive relationship

Students need to understand how to identify if they are in an abusive relationship. Red flags can include constant put downs, controlling or blaming behavior, pressure for sex acts, or being isolated from friends or family, for example. 

Responsibilities of faculty & staff

It’s impossible to know who students will approach for help, so it’s important that faculty and staff understand how to respond to and report incidents or situations that are brought to their attention.

Intervention techniques for bystanders

Even if students are aware of the signs of dating or domestic violence, they often don’t know what to do when they know someone in a violent relationship. It’s important for them to understand that the person needs support and encouragement, but intervening may not be ideal unless there is an immediate physical threat. 

Tips for Speaking with Potential Victims

Victims of dating or domestic violence on campus are in a vulnerable and scary place, and the way people talk to them when they report issues impacts how they perceive and address their situation. That’s why it’s especially important for employees to listen and respond carefully to ensure the victim feels supported and not potentially blamed for the situation.

A Big Task

Every higher education institution has a big job when it comes to VAWA training requirements. If your college or university is looking for efficient and proven ways to do the job, check out our VAWA, Title IX and Clery Act Training.

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