by Anthony Mainville.
J Morales often can’t figure out what keeps her friend from leaving an unhealthy relationship. Despite the circumstances surrounding her girl, Morales, 28, continues to provide support and comfort.
“My friend has suffered a great deal of verbal abuse from her boyfriend constantly in their eight year relationship,” says the City College senior who didn’t want her first name revealed. “I detect the signs of abuse when I see her since it has become obvious based on her physical appearance. It seems harder for her to leave her boyfriend because she’s blind-sided by love, and they have a daughter together.”
Morales and other caring friends wish they knew how to solve the issue of domestic violence among their peers.
Knowledge Networks, a research firm, recently conducted a survey of 330 female and 178 male students ages 18-29 from four-year U.S. colleges about their dating experiences and definitions of abuse. The survey found that 43 percent of the women who date said they had experienced violence and abuse from a partner. More than one in five college women (22 percent) had reported actual physical abuse, sexual abuse or threats of physical violence.
“In talking with teens and college students who have dealt with dating violence, they all knew something was wrong, but they didn’t know what to call it,” says Jane Randel, senior vice president of corporate communications at Liz Clairborne Inc., which commissioned the survey. “The findings of this survey prove that colleges and universities need to provide a more comprehensive response and additional creative educational programs to address dating violence and abuse.”
Another major finding: 57 percent of college students said it was difficult to identify dating abuse. “If you fear for yourself or for others any form of violence, act,” says John T. Casteen III, former college president of the University of Virginia (UVA) during the high-profile death of UVA lacrosse player Yeardley Love, who was beaten viciously by her ex-boyfriend. “Don’t hear a scream, don’t watch abuse, don’t hear stories of abuse from your friends, and keep quiet. Speak out.”
Dating abuse hasn’t gone without notice from students at CCNY. Those who haven’t been in abusive dating relationships or seen it with friends wonder how young men and women can cope with it for so long. “If I knew someone in an abusive relationship, I would probably intervene,” says Stephanie, 19, a CCNY sophomore who wanted her last name to remain anonymous. The political major adds: “Some people in abusive relationships don’t want to acknowledge it because they fear the risks of speaking up. You have to chose your well-being before anything else.”
Some CCNY students want the school to focus more on resources for students to cope with dating violence. “The issue of domestic violence isn’t discussed enough on campus,” says Diona Phoenix, 22, a CCNY senior who majors in advertising and public relations. “If a person doesn’t feel comfortable talking about it with counselors about the situation, then it’ll be harder for them to identify signs of abuse.”