Dating Violence at College: It Happens Here

By: Katie Bowles ‘18

Beneath a culture of politeness and door-holding, runs an undercurrent of complicity towards gender-based violence. As Domestic Violence Awareness Month comes to a close, it is essential to understand that Mount St. James is not a safe haven from relationship abuse.

Under the Violence Against Women Act, dating violence is defined as, “Violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim […] dating violence includes, but is not limited to, sexual or physical abuse or the threat of such abuse.”

The Holy Cross 2017 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report published that, over the last three years, there have been four reported cases of dating violence at Holy Cross. This is alarming. On a campus that cherishes its mantra of being people “for and with others,” even one incident of relationship violence is too many.

According to reports from the U.S. Justice Department and the Center for Disease Control, women between the ages of 18 and 24 experience the highest rate of dating violence of any group and around 20 percent of college students reported experiencing dating violence by a current partner. Dating violence occurs in ALL types of relationships, regardless of individuals’ socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or physical ability. The same reports show that one in three women and one in four men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. These numbers are unacceptable.

Do not forget that most relational and sexual violence is perpetrated by someone the victims knows, not a stranger in a dark alley. (One type of assault is not more legitimate or tragic than another.) Many victims of intimate partner violence are unlikely to report their experiences for a number of reasons including fear, love, dependency, or shame. You can be friends with someone and not necessarily know they are abusive. Many abusers come across as very friendly and personable in their other relationships, but being a “nice” person is not justification for abusing their partner physically, verbally, or psychologically. There is no reason to protect an abuser or to keep abuse a secret.

At Holy Cross, we do a lot of great work around bystander intervention with regards to sexual assault. In addition to this, we must do better with building skills for intervention and prevention of dating violence. What are our attitudes regarding intimate relationships?

Dating violence is not a “private” matter. It is a matter of justice and human dignity, and it is our obligation as a community to wholly denounce any acts of dating violence that occur on this campus and beyond. No one should be living in fear or unable to focus on their studies. Our campus must be a safe positive environment for all of our students. Let’s overcome a culture of silence, and follow our school’s mission “to be sensitive to one another, to serve others, and to seek justice within and beyond the Holy Cross community.”

Be proactive. Learn how to recognize the warning signs of relationship abuse and what to do to support yourself or others in a dangerous situation. Visit loveisrespect.org for information and resources. Attend a One Love Training hosted by the Relationship Peer Educators. Call the confidential and anonymous National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.

Say it with me: Any case of dating violence at Holy Cross is one too many.

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