As you read this sentence, somebody is being victimized to domestic abuse. According to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Female victims commonly first experience domestic violence during college, around ages 18-24, according to domesticshelters.org. It is common for students to have a hard time identifying dating or domestic violence. A poll done by Break the Cycle found that 57% of college students had this issue. Benedictine University recently has started an initiative to combat this.
The PEACE team, (Promoting Empowerment and Community Engagement), began when the University received the Violence Against Women Act Campus Grant from the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women in 2016. The PEACE team’s goal is to promote messages of violence prevention in connection with our University values and current legislation. Trying to spot hints or signs of domestic abuse isn’t as easy as one might think.
Bernadette Muloski, PEACE Team chair, says many signs are likely to be mental. According to her, keeping the person away from friends or family, constantly putting the person down, and making them doubt themselves are all signs of mental abuse that can be hard to spot. In domestic violence, stopping the person from getting a job or education or using children as leverage can be signs. Muloski says in college relationships, one sign could include showing up when not invited. Another sign is jealousy towards groups of friends, thinking that their significant other may be looking at a friend as a potential dating partner and get jealous even if there is nothing going on. The most serious issue would be constantly keeping track of the significant other by tracking their location or reading the significant other’s texts and emails. Helping someone who may be a victim of dating violence takes careful thought and consideration.
When asked what the best way to help a victim without putting them in more danger, Muloski replied, “One of the most frustrating questions we get is ‘Why don’t they just leave?’ but that’s not an appropriate question because there are so many barriers to leaving a situation so what do they need in that moment and how can you be there to support them. We wanna just say, ‘I have noticed this behavior that is not healthy, do you want to talk about it?’ Just being there for support, letting them figure out what they need, and then really just being unjudgmental.”
Benedictine has many resources for people to go to. The University has a Title IX coordinator and University police. If there is a crisis situation, the YWCA is the university’s confidential adviser, and in a non-crisis situation, family shelter services, who have many other resources for advocacy and counselors to help survivors. Students could also talk with the Prevention Peer Educator students on campus who are trained in all resources and they are not mandated reporters.
Benedictine has many programs going on throughout the year to bring awareness to the topic of domestic violence. On Friday, a program called “Escalation Workshop,” developed by the organization One Love, was created by a family whose daughter was killed by her ex-boyfriend. The program is designed to help people recognize red flags that could possibly lead to a domestic-violence relationship. If you or someone you know is experiencing dating or domestic violence, please do not be afraid to seek help.