How Colleges Can Address Dating Violence

U-Va. murder highlights the prevalence of relationship violence on college campuses

With the killing of University of Virginia female lacrosse player Yeardley Love, 22, May 3, allegedly by her boyfriend, college campus officials are now reviewing how they vet prospective students, as well as monitor the activities of current ones.

Background checks are being discussed as a possible solution, and having them is a good start. But there are several issues with this type of screening:

  • Most college applicants have only recently become adults, so if they have a criminal past, that information usually is not public because the incidents occurred when they were minors
  • The cost of thorough background screenings can be prohibitive
  • If an incident occurrs in a different state, it might not show up on a check

One option might be for colleges and universities to ask students at the beginning of every semester or quarter if they have been arrested or convicted of a crime. This might be done through the class registration or parking registration process. Still, I doubt most institutions have the resources or infrastructure in place to catch those who lie.

Another option that is being considered by the State of Virginia is requiring police departments to notify a university when one of its students is arrested. This idea might work if the arrest takes place in Virginia, and if the police department knows that the individual in question is attending college.

Education, however, is probably the most effective component to preventing dating violence. Campuses might find it appropriate to use the sexual assault prevention model and modify it so it applies to relationship abuse.

Victims need to be able to identify when they are being abused and harassed (physically, verbally and emotionally). They must also know how to report the abuse and safely extricate themselves from their relationships.

Additionally, friends, family and classmates must learn to identify the signs of relationship violence and act on their suspicions.

In my previous article “Economic Woes Spark Teen Dating Violence,” I interviewed Bronwyn Blake, founder and senior attorney for the Teen Justice Initiative, who recommends that school or university administrators, teachers, parents or other students who suspect someone is experiencing violence in a dating relationship should be supportive of the victim.

 “Let the victim know you care about them, you don’t like how they are being treated, and you are ready to help them if they are ready to get help,” she says.


About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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