Last month we talked about Teen Dating Violence, but did you know dating abuse occurs on college campuses too?
The College Student’s Brain:
Adolescent brain development happens from ages 10 to 25, which means our college students are still adolescents!
I know…probably not what college students want to hear!
Your still-developing brain means that the excitement of college is lighting up the back of your brain while the front of your brain has to work harder to calculate risk, make plans, and stop inappropriate behavior. In the thrill of a new relationship or the chase that comes before, pause and weigh whether it’s healthy or unhealthy--you can do that; it just takes a little more effort for your brain.
While we’re discussing healthy versus unhealthy relationships, I want to talk to the parents for a second…
Did you know that three out of four parents have not talked to their children about abuse? This means our kids are not equipped to recognize abusive behavior.
In fact, 70% of young adults do not know they are being abused by their partner.
Having conversations with your adolescents about what a healthy relationship looks like prepares them to wisely select their relationships, romantic or otherwise.
In the US, women aged 16-24 experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence (aka domestic violence and dating violence). 21% of college students report dating violence by a current partner, and 32% report a violent partner in a previous dating relationship.
But there is another reason we need to equip our students…
About half (52%) of college students who know someone who is experiencing abuse do not say anything or act. Their reasons for staying quiet include not wanting to get involved and fear of ruining a friendship with either party, or of making the situation worse.
College Campus Challenges
It is very difficult to report violence or abuse. Why?
The campus is a small world: they may share a social circle with the person they are reporting, which can affect friendships or mean a risk of running into the abusive person
Distance from home: their support network may be miles away, making them feel alone
Parents: some worry about their parents finding out
Stalking: many students are concerned that this will be a repercussion of reporting
The Administration: the college culture has been portrayed in the news, and even on shows like Law and Order: SVU, as being insensitive, dishonest, and dismissive in situations like assaults or intimate partner violence. Unfortunately, this has been the experience of many, leading students to believe the administration will not understand or act.
Students are more vulnerable on a college campus than in the “real world.” Title IX gives colleges some requirements, but the safe guards are more limited than the legal system.
Fill your shopping cart! During my years of dance training, my instructors used to tell us to watch others and put anything they did that we liked into our shopping cart. Find couples that you respect and admire and observe how they interact. When you see something you like, put it in your healthy relationship shopping cart. Then when you encounter behavior in college that doesn’t match, you can leave it on the shelf ;)
Find a strong support network: You may have to go off campus to find one that you can trust won’t fall apart should a situation arise. For me, I had a close family friend who lived near my school, and faculty members who did not know the person I was reporting.
For Parents/Caring Adults:
Respond well: We know that the response of the first person disclosed to is critical. The amazing woman I disclosed to said, “I don’t know what to do, but I’m going to find out right now and get you help.” This is a great model for anyone to follow.
Discuss relationships with adolescents: Remember they’re new to this! The more they can learn, the more equipped they will be. You also can establish yourself as a safe person to come to with questions, which is beneficial for the student as he or she thinks about and experiences dating.
If a young adult or college student needs help, feel free to contact our Youth and Young Adult Ministries Coordinator, Gabby Plaep, at 763-767-2150 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A great place for teens to learn more and receive support is our Hope-Filled Teens Support Groups. New groups, one for boys and one for girls, start March 26th. Learn more at www.doorofhopeministries.org/events. Register a teen by contacting Tanda at email@example.com
Written by Gabby Plaep, Door of Hope’s Youth and Young Adult Ministries Coordinator.
Gabby can be reached at at firstname.lastname@example.org or 763-767-2150.