Violence on College Campuses

TW: This article makes references to physical and sexual assault.

 

Joe Goldberg is America’s new favorite narcissist. The writers of the hit Netflix series “You,” expertly found a way to make a man with scary, psychopathic tendencies be a protagonist who everyone was rooting for deep down. It’s safe to say that it was easy for people to empathize with Joe because they are somewhat removed from the idea of becoming entangled with someone as dangerously unassuming as Joe; however, violent narcissistic behavior is not a rare occurrence reserved for Netflix productions and episodes of 60 minutes. College campuses are places where you can find people from varying backgrounds, whose upbringings all played a role in how they behave. Violence is something that no one expects to be the victim of, especially in college - a place that they expect to be their new home. 

 

    Violence on college campuses is vastly underreported. This is a scary fact, when one takes into consideration the alarming figures from the violence that is reported. 

Statistics show that:

  • 11.2% of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation (among all graduate and undergraduate students).

  • Among undergraduate students, 23.1% of females and 5.4% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.

  • 4.2% of students have experienced stalking since entering college.

As disturbing as these statistics are, they beg us to consider the thousands of cases of violence that are not counted in these numbers. Why are they not reported? According to psychotherapist and best-selling author Lena Derhally, the main issue is that “A culture of victim blaming [that] leads to victims feeling ashamed to speak up about their assault.” It is important to note that the definition of violence is not limited to physical violence, but it also applies to emotional abuse. 

Derhally said that the most common relational dynamic that manifests violence of both a physical and emotional nature involves people with narcissistic tendencies.

 In these relationships, the narcissist attempts to win another person over with grand, over the top gestures as symbols of their affection. To many, this does not seem problematic. After all, shouldn’t those pursuing you try their best to show you how much they desire you? Derhally said that this mentality has become prevalent as a result of unrealistic narratives promoted in romantic comedies. She suggests that studies show that rom-coms have led to more women equating stalker-like behavior with romance, which in turn leads to them being more susceptible to overlooking actual stalkers. 

    The time when people begin to grow concerned over a narcissist’s behavior is when they start to exhibit known signs of abuse - gaslighting, criticizing, stonewalling, or physical or sexual assault. Many abusers try to make their victims feel like they are the reason for their violent outbursts; however, psychologists maintain that over exaggerated emotional reactions result from the “90/10 reaction”: 10% of the reaction results from a present trigger, but 90% of it stems from trauma from the past. Once these abusive tendencies start to manifest, it is highly unlikely that they will get better. While the abusers may temporarily revert to “nice” behavior, it will never be a permanent change. 

The only responsibility of someone who has suffered from violence is to take steps to change their personal narrative from that of a victim to that of a survivor. 

    No one enters into a relationship with the expectation of being a victim of abuse. For example, in Lena Derhally’s best-selling book “My Daddy Is a Hero: How Chris Watts Went from Family Man to Family Killer”, Chris Watts was a cookie-cutter husband for 6 years before he murdered his pregnant wife and their two daughters. Sometimes, abusers don’t show red flags at all; however, even when they do, it is never the victim’s fault or responsibility to prevent violence. Furthermore, a victim should never feel obligated to try to heal their abuser and eradicate their violent behavior. An abuser will only change if they decide to. The only responsibility of someone who has suffered from violence is to take steps to change their personal narrative from that of a victim to that of a survivor.