Domestic Violence on College Campuses
Documentary on Issue
When educational institutions exhibit flagrant disregard for morality and law it disempowers people and jeopardizes opportunities for upward mobility.
This atmosphere on college campuses — with unethical corruption and unscrupulous activity — eventually seems to become all but incompatible with the meaningful embodiment of education.
We must expand on the scope of the problem of domestic violence on college campuses, in addition to raising awareness about the barriers that might exist for students in accessing resources.
We must also provide recommendations to improve the educational system, as well as future outcomes.
Ultimately, anyone, regardless of his or her position in society has basic human rights, such as freedom, education, safety, privacy, and an adequate standard of living.
Technology is Great Unless in the Hands of the Abuser
Many Forms of DV
Verbal Forms of DV
Defining Domestic Violence
The Department of Justice defines domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner”; however, colleges & universities define domestic violence a bit differently.
In regards to the higher educational system, domestic violence is defined as “an “intra-family” offense between intimate partners that results in physical injury or harm, or that was intended to cause reasonable fear of imminent physical injury, harm, or death”.
The “intra family” dynamics further address “the changes in relationships among the members of the family”.
Some colleges have taken these dynamics into account.
For example, Mercy College of Health Sciences offers external resources to their campus community for an “Intra-Family Sexual Abuse Program” to address these concerns.
There are various forms of domestic violence, which can include physical abuses, but also sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological abuses or threats that can intimidate, threaten, injure and/or terrorize another person.
Examples of abuse often include physical aspects (e.g., slapping, hitting, punching, biting, hair pulling, etc.)
This physical form of abuse can also include forcible use of drugs and/or alcohol upon the victims at parties.
Sexual forms of abuse can include rape, attacks on sexual parts of the body, treating the victim in a sexually demeaning manner, etc.
The emotional aspects of abuse can include criticism, name-calling, damaging relationships with friends, etc.
From an economic standpoint, abuse can include withholding access to money, forbidding school or job attendance, etc.
Psychological abuses can include the use of intimidation to create fear; threatening physical harm to family or friends; destruction of pets and/or property; forcing isolation from others, and so forth.
Cyber stalking and social networking provides new avenues for abuse in regards to this population (e.g., GPS tracking, humiliating Facebook, hacking into bank accounts, etc.).
Domestic abuse among college students is of similar frequency to that found in adult relationships; however, the margin of error in research is a concern.
The percentage of male and female college students who have either experienced or inflicted violence ranges from 21% to 92%.
Nevertheless, dating violence is a major issue on college campuses that must be addressed.
Statistics show that among students in college who’ve been sexually assaulted, 35% of attempted rapes occurred on dates, while 22% of threatened rapes occurred on dates, and 12% of completed rapes occurred on dates.
Casual dating on college campuses is certainly a prevalent issue.
Research has also shown that, approximately 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses knew their attackers.
Domestic violence is also very costly from a public health perspective, which colleges and universities should be cognizant of.
According to DVCpartners, “the health related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking, and homicide committed by intimate partners exceed $5.8 billion each year” and of that amount “nearly $4.1 billion are for direct medical and mental health care services, and nearly $1.8 billion are for the indirect costs of lost productivity or wages”.
More research is needed in this area.
Are You Seeing Red Flags?
Cycle of Violence
Davon Durant and Conflicting Stories
Title IX Coordinator
A System That Isn’t Set Up For Survivors
Judge Berating DV Victim
How Do Colleges & Universities Handle Domestic Violence On Campuses?
Colleges and Universities tend to consider the following factors when deciding whether or not to charge offenders with domestic violence violations (e.g., the length of the relationship, the type of relationship, and the frequency of interaction between the two people involved in the relationship).
This sometimes helps to handle cases more appropriately; however, even with these considerations, some colleges do not handle domestic violence cases well because they do not factor in other important issues (e.g., power & control, cycle of violence, fear, etc.).
For instance, a 21-year-old, Arizona State football recruit named Davon Durant, was initially sentenced to two years of probation for a domestic violence case.
His aggravated assault charge was dropped because the victim recanted her story. Police initially said that
Durant's girlfriend told them she was hit and choked during an argument.
The legal process seemed daunting because more inconsistencies emerged in this case.
The police stated that Durant’s girlfriend also had abrasions and neck bruises consistent with being grabbed.
Nevertheless, the victim later said this incident was merely a verbal altercation (i.e., fear of testifying).
Durant also has said that it was simply a “lover's quarrel”.
Arizona State University sought accountability for this case by suspending Durant indefinitely, following his arrest.
College and universities must be careful when handling murky domestic violence cases like this to ensure there are no violations of survivor’s rights.
Common ways this can occur are failure to designate a Title IX coordinator, failure to inform survivors of their complaint outcomes, failure to publish contact information, failure to remain consistent in policies and practices (e.g., allowing certain groups, such as sports teams or fraternity members, to go through a more lenient process than other students), and failure to provide interim relief (e.g., counseling, disability assistance/medical services, and legal assistance).
The legal aspect is very important because the justice system fails domestic violence survivors too often, and it is well known that the courts are fallible.
Colleges and universities should be well versed on trauma to help with these issues because survivors may not want to face their abusers in court.
This could be detrimental to them because they could be held in contempt for failure to appear.
In Florida, Judge Jerri Collins immediately held a domestic violence victim in contempt of court, despite hearing her tearful plea regarding depression, anxiety, and homelessness, which hindered her from appearing in court in front of her abuser.
Unfortunately, the survivor’s plea fell on deaf ears.
The judge was clearly agitated because she believed the survivor merely ignored the subpoena and hurt the prosecution’s case, which was false, because the abuser was later sentenced to jail despite: “the victim's lack of cooperation".
The judge placed blame on the victim, berated her in front of her abuser, held her in contempt of court, and sentenced her to three days in county jail with no recourse for her one-year-old child.
This judge’s decision was condemnable because it punished the victim and sent a message that victims of domestic violence have no legal recourse.
Evidence-based prosecution should be used when survivors choose not to be a witness due to the trauma they have suffered in their relationships.
Domestic violence cases like this must be handled with sensitivity and innovation.
Therefore, the victim will not necessarily be re-traumatized while fighting for justice.
Colleges and universities must be cognizant on the effects of domestic violence on victims to recognize common reactions and avoid re-victimization.
Academic and legal accommodations should be given to survivors of domestic violence on college campuses (e.g., allowing survivors to retake classes without financial or academic penalty, providing extensions for deadlines missed due to court appearances, housing relocation for safety, etc.).
Schools should not pressure survivors to take withdrawals or leaves of absence from campus either because that could further “wear” survivors down (e.g., attrition).
Title IX: Equality in Action
Gender-Based Violence Statistics
Jeanne Clery Act
President Obama signs the Violence Against Women Act
Domestic Violence Resources
There are resources available that are designed to take domestic violence on college campuses seriously, but awareness is an issue.
The co-founder of Know Your IX, Dana Bolger, believes: “schools are totally lost on how to respond to violence when it occurs in the context of a dating relationship”.
Bolger’s national survivor and student driven campaign aims to educate all college students in the United States about their rights under Title IX to end campus sexual violence.
Title IX is a powerful tool, which the United States Department of Justice defines as: “comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded educational program or activity”.
In regards to dating violence, it protects survivors of all forms of gender-based violence on campus such as rape, sexual assault, dating, domestic violence, stalking, and harassment.
Another resource that addresses campus security and safety reporting is the Jeanne Clery Act.
According to the activist group, Know Your IX, the Clery Act “applies to institutions of higher education and is confined to campus crimes, which occur on campus, or off campus, when associated with the institution”.
This consumer protection law was passed in 1990 and requires all colleges and universities that participate in federal student aid programs to disclose their campus safety information for transparency purposes.
The Clery Act was expanded in 2013 with the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and President Obama signed this amendment into law on March 7th, 2013, which is called the Campus SaVE Act; another legal tool for victims as it applies to mishandled complaints in order to hold schools accountable.
The Campus SaVE Act, which stands for The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, requires colleges to report domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.
This goes beyond categories already mandated by the Clery Act.
Under the new provisions, colleges are also required to adopt certain student discipline procedures (e.g., notifying victims of their rights).
The Campus SaVE Act requires colleges to adopt certain institutional policies as well, which address and prevent campus sexual violence (e.g., pertinent training for college personnel).
This amendment to the Clery Act will hopefully decrease sexual assault on campuses by requiring explicit transparency, victim rights, educational requirements, and more prevention work.
Campus SaVE Act
Excessive Alcohol Use Socially Acceptable
Influencers: On and Off Campus
Going to college is a major life course transition, especially when living on your own or on campus.
The campus community has many environmental influences that are apart of each student’s personal development.
There are educational influencers (e.g., new rituals, increased course loads, rising costs of living, etc.).
New peer norms also emerge (e.g., college sports, roommates, fraternities, nightlife, viewing alcohol as positive and socially acceptable, etc.).
Colleges and universities must be cognizant of the intersectionality of these social identities.
They must alert students of dangers and dispel myths associated with this major life course transition.
For example, domestic violence is not a symptom of alcohol addiction or abuse.
Binge drinking and the college party culture are huge on campuses.
Colleges and universities must keep students informed about the facts of college life and raise awareness of consequences, especially those associated with domestic violence.
The majority of physically abusive incidents (e.g., 76%) occur in the absence of alcohol use.
The "disinhibition theory" has a historic tradition of holding abusers less accountable if they commit crimes under the influence of alcohol or other substances, which is just a socially acceptable excuse for violence that colleges can no longer tolerate.
Drinking and domestic violence are separate issues that must be addressed concurrently to provide effective support.
Substance abuse and domestic violence service systems must work together to ensure that their respective responses promote accountability of abusers, recovery from addiction, and survivor’s safety on campus.
Most incidents go unreported, which is partially influenced by the different social stigmas survivors of domestic abuse experience.
Research has shown that nearly 60% of victims do not go to police, and about 25% of reported assaults actually lead to an arrest.
There are other factors that prevent victims from reporting attacks, such as distrust of authorities, fear of blame, stereotypes, etc.
The media also influences the public to normalize domestic violence, as well as the rape culture, which keeps people from reporting (e.g., under the law, Snow White was sexually assaulted, not awakened).
The prince kisses her while she is sleeping; however, she was in no capacity to consent to it, yet that is revered as a romantic moment for Disney.
According to Louie, there is another iconic cartoon that teaches women to be patient and support their abusive partners, which is Beauty and the Beast (e.g., Belle stays in a violent relationship to help change her partner’s behavior and transform him into a prince).
This normalization of domestic violence in popular culture should be discussed on campuses and in relevant college courses (e.g., teach media or communications classes on how fairy tales objectify women).
New films on this issue that target this population could also be shown to students (e.g., #DearDaddy).
According to Care Norway, a non-profit that focuses on violence against women, rape culture and domestic violence is the "greatest danger" facing all females.
This short film comes from the perspective of a father's unborn daughter.
She gives him a powerful warning about the violence she will probably endure as she grows older and asks him to advocate for change.
Many find the video commendable but there are some critics that disagree with its message (e.g., some think it makes women look like victims and others feel men have been excluded).
Nevertheless, this type of social justice advocacy can further influence media and raise much needed awareness about this issue.
Never Tolerate Violence Against Women
Recommendations To Improve The System
In order to improve the educational system, in regards to domestic violence on campuses, colleges and universities must raise more awareness about this issue, provide supportive resources, and work in conjunction with law enforcement.
This agenda must be pushed in government (e.g., lobbying, legislation, etc.).
It is also recommendable to petition for more integrity in the media (e.g., if a school has DV issues, highlight those stories in the campus newspaper/radio station or local news sources to promote accountability and transparency).
Campuses should publicize their student support systems with accurate contact information.
Campus networks of crisis intervention should be easily accessible and ways of reporting should be made available (e.g., 24/7 Hotlines).
This would be mutually beneficial for families, communities, schools, and the students because it would provide more resources and aid to the campus community, in addition to job creation, field experience, community partnership opportunities, development, etc.
Other recommendations include preventative educational measures (e.g., mandatory DV course).
Freshman students should take a course upon admission to furnish them with information and needed skills to recognize and prevent relationship violence and sexual assault in their lives.
Student learning objectives could consist of domestic violence college issues, especially if the students plan to reside on or around campus.
Facilitators could simply approach the subject in a way to educate the campus community about the realities of domestic violence (e.g., using presentations, panel discussions, and media interviews).
The course could include definitions, statistics, information on reporting and investigative procedures, a guide to the health center, and self-defense tips (e.g., psychological awareness and verbal skills not just physical training).
Perhaps a social and public health component can be mixed in to help students better understand the dynamics and help them make healthy decisions in the future.
It is also recommendable that the campus community becomes better educated on traumaand its effects.
Traumatic events can have a profound impact on domestic violence survivors initially following an incident and for the years to come.
Common reaction that colleges and universities should be cognizant of include shock, numbness, disbelief, distrust of others, confusion, self-blame, guilt, shame, embarrassment, and irritability.
Other changes may include fluctuations in appetite; changes in sleep patterns, experiencing nightmares, flashbacks or jumpiness, and the sense of powerlessness or loss of control.
These feelings are devastating and can hinder schooling, which is why it is imperative for survivors to work through them in order to minimize the overall impact of the abuse and to reduce any potential long-term effects.
Counseling or therapy can provide a safe environment for students to process their feelings and can help prevent harmful impacts on their relationships, intimacy issues, stress levels, and sense of self-worth.
In terms of attrition rates, the campus community must be aware of this and look out for warning signs among students.
Colleges and universities should also recommend safety planning for domestic violence victims on campus.
Survivors need to be aware of what to do if they see their abuser on campus or elsewhere.
Printing a safety plan “can help students feel safer whether they are staying in their current situation are getting ready to leave”.
This safety plan could specify emergency contacts, hotlines, exit strategy, specific time frames, a list of items for an escape bag, etc.
A practical safety plan can help the victim understand what their options are within the midst of violence.
College personnel must also be trained to help students implement these safety plans.
DV safety plan
Did you already know about the Prevalence of DV on College Campuses?
There are various influences that cause and continue domestic violence on college campuses.
These influences are unique to each situation but students are changed by the educational environment, peer norms, public opinion, etc.
The intersectionality of the various entities makes it apparent that a domestic violence situation can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at anytime.
Therefore, colleges and universities have to be vigilant about domestic violence issues on campuses to ensure the safety of all their students.
If these situations are not handled properly there could be major cultural implications (e.g., admissions could decline if parents deem campuses unsafe for their children, it could also affect funding from alumni and other organization and individuals, or attendance/graduation rates could decline if the issues on campus are ignored, etc.).
The pressures, vulnerability, and distance that characterize this stage of development in an individual’s identity, where students are essentially transitioning to adulthood, makes battering in dating relationships unique.
Therefore, on campus support systems and on going parental involvement is needed.
Lastly, the willful blindness of the maltreatment of students on college campuses is abusive in itself.
Colleges and universities must hold abusers accountable for any misconduct, adhere to legal responsibilities at all times, and concentrate on guiding survivors of domestic violence through the existing legal system to help them achieve justice, protection, and their due rights.
Multiple recommendations have been made in and effort to help improve the system because educational administration, faculty, and staff must recognize that the first civil right of every student is to be free of domestic violence.
Domestic Violence On Campus Is The Next Big College Controversy
© 2016 Crystal Gordon