Abuse: The Dark Side of Dating on Campus

Violence in the school and university student dating scene is all too common. Know the signs of abuse so you can respond appropriately.

“It’s not about what you did or didn’t do,” Henderson says. “We’re not saying that what you did or didn’t do was good. Even if you did a bad thing, it is always the person’s choice to use violence in that situation. Sometimes that’s the first time a woman has heard that, and it can be powerful for someone who hasn’t been believed for a long, long time.”

Mandated Reporting Can Backfire

Another challenge to campuses dealing with dating violence are the mandated reporting laws, which require K-12 teachers, police officers and others to report abuse.

“It takes so much power away from the victim where maybe they need more control and input,” says University of Wisconsin, Madison Police Department Det. Marshall Ogren. “In Wisconsin, if we have probable cause to believe a crime was committed, we have to ascertain the predominant aggressor, and we are bound by law to make an arrest.”

That becomes a problem when the victim, who might still love their partner, doesn’t want anything bad to happen to him (or her). The victim probably just wants the current incident to stop. It is for these reasons that many domestic/dating violence experts claim that mandated reporting laws often discourage victims from reporting abuse.

“That’s part of the reason why we have Love Is Respect,” says Escobar. “We are anonymous. We don’t collect identifying information so that if you do disclose something to us that would fall under a mandatory reporting situation, all we know is your age and maybe your city. If you go and tell your school teacher that your boyfriend is hitting you, they may have to call the police.”

Anyone Can Become a Victim of Abuse

Although the vast majority of dating violence involves males abusing females, men can be victims, as can male or female partners in same-sex relationships. Determining who is the primary aggressor, however, can be very difficult, particularly for police officers who might only have an hour or so to assess the situation.

“We need to look at who’s really scared and who is really in danger,” says Corcoran. “That takes time and patience and talking to each person to figure that out. We know there can be violence on both sides of a relationship, but it is less common than people assume. While women may perpetrate some acts of physical violence, when men perpetrate them, they are much more serious and more often end up in the victim needing medical attention.”

Same-sex relationship abuse cases can also be challenging. Some incidents are classified by the police as roommate fights. In many cases, victims are hesitant to come forward because they don’t want to “out” themselves to their family or community. If they do, they run the risk of being bullied on campus. LGBTQ victims are also afraid to ask for help, thinking the police won’t take their relationship or the abuse seriously.

“This tells us we really need to understand the lives of these young people and how complicated they can be,” says Corcoran. “If we have ongoing conversations with young people, they may feel safe and supported and able to come forward.”

Helpful Dating Violence Resources

This article was originally published in 2012.

About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray
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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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