In honor of October’s domestic violence awareness month drawing to a close, it’s important to realize that interpersonal violence is not just something that happens to other people.
It happens right here on campus and other campuses across the country. According to the Domestic Violence Resource Center, one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, with women ages 20-24 at the greatest risk of partner violence.
I know many people who have been victims, myself included. I had a boyfriend, now a long-time ex, thankfully, who could throw a temper tantrum worse than anything my two year old could even dream of if he didn’t get his way. Even something as simple as not being able to visit at a certain time or having other commitments could set him off.
Though he would occasionally get physical, the worst part of it all was the emotional manipulation. I could never feel like I was good enough, and if I ever tried to bring up an issue or discuss it, he was a master at turning things around so I felt like it was somehow my fault or that I was crazy and just remembering things wrong.
This is called gaslighting. It’s an all too common form of emotional manipulation and it is considered abuse.
Have you ever had a partner say that you’re just being emotional, defensive, crazy or dramatic? Or that they were just joking, you don’t have a sense of humor, calm down and get over it? Those are perfect examples of this, and it begins a cycle of the victim wondering if maybe they really are just being irrational and somehow should shoulder some of the blame for the abuse.
Don’t ever justify an abuser’s actions. It is never your fault and no one has a right to tell you how you should be feeling.
Domestic violence can be especially difficult for college students to deal, with and there are many reasons why abuse often runs rampant among the college-age crowd. Students are away from home and unsure of where they can turn for help. They might be afraid of losing certain social networks or friends if they report the abuse. Plus, there is often still an undercurrent of love for the abuser, and it can be difficult to cut all ties as you hope that he or she will not do it again.
The truth is that they will do it again and as hard as it might be, you should never settle for someone who does not respect you. A relationship should be an equal partnership defined by trust and integrity.
It’s not just women that are victims, either.
Social norms make it difficult for a man to come forward and report a woman’s abuse because men are supposed to be “tough.” Men are much less likely to report domestic violence, but that in no way means that it should be ignored. It takes a strong person, male or female, to admit that they are being abused, but if you are in that situation, know that you are better than that, and there are many resources available to help.
On campus, if you are in an emergency situation, call 911 or public safety at 937-229-2121. If you feel you need someone to talk to, even if you aren’t yet ready to leave or just need help figuring out your next steps, the counseling center is an excellent resource that can be reached at 937-229-3141. Also, confide in a close friend or family member for support. You can also visit the Women’s Center on the second floor of Alumni Hall.
As college students, we have enough to stress about with papers, projects, grades and getting a job after graduation. Don’t let an abusive relationship add to it. A significant other should make your life better, not worse. Remember, love shouldn’t hurt, period.