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Domestic Violence in College: What You Didn’t Know

Content warning: Domestic violence

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)

Leah Carnahan, TCU Confidential Advocate: 817-257-5225 or [email protected] or Jarvis Hall 232 (inside the Counseling Center)

In July of this year, Ally Stephens, a now-sophomore at Oklahoma University, was beaten and kicked in her stomach multiple times after telling her boyfriend that she was pregnant. On Thanksgiving in 2014, Cornell University student Shannon Jones was strangled to death by her boyfriend after an argument. These may seem like freak incidents, but they are more common than most think. In reality, 43% of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, digital, verbal, or other controlling forms of assault.

What is Domestic Violence?

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. According to the United Nations, “Domestic abuse, also called “domestic violence” or “intimate partner violence”, can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.” According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. One in three women and one in four men have ever experienced some kind of physical abuse by an intimate partner, which includes a range of behaviors.

One in three women and one in four men have ever experienced some kind of physical abuse by an intimate partner.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is often seen as an issue between spouses or parents & children, but college women are the most at-risk. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner. College students can experience domestic violence from an intimate partner (also known as “intimate partner violence” or “dating violence”) or a housemate/roommate.

Domestic Violence Law in Texas

40.1% of Texas women and 34.9% of Texas men experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner rape, and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes.

In Texas, domestic violence policy falls under “family violence,” which includes any of the following:

  • an act by one “family or household member” against another that threatens or results in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault
  • child abuse involving a family or household member, or
  • dating violence.

According to Texas law, family and household members are individuals who share one of the following relationships:

  • current or former spouses
  • parents of the same child
  • foster child and parent
  • relatives by blood, marriage, or adoption
  • current or former co-residents, and
  • current or former dating or romantic partners.

Know the Signs

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, rates of domestic violence have dramatically increased due to increased financial stress, isolation, and restrictions. Many people think of abuse as purely physical, when in fact, 48% of women have experienced psychological abuse by a partner in their lifetime.

Warning Signs of Domestic Violence

  • Extreme jealousy
  • Insults
  • Isolation from friends or family members
  • Controlling financial or personal decisions
  • Threats
  • Destroying belongings or personal items
  • Pressure to have sex or use drugs

A full list of warning signs can be found on the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s website.

Many people in an abusive relationship don’t recognize these signs, even if their friends or family do. People stay in abusive relationships for a variety of reasons, including fear, shame, and lack of resources. It is also possible to have strong feelings of love for the abuser that make it hard to walk away.

How to Help

If you believe that you or a friend may be in an abusive relationship, you can call, text, or chat the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help or resources. You can also contact Leah Carnahan, TCU Confidential Advocate at 817-257-5225 or [email protected], or in Jarvis Hall 232 (inside the Counseling Center). As a confidential advocate, Leah can help provide the resources you need in a confidential manner.

The Tarrant County Women’s Center provides free counseling, prevention education, and employment solutions to our community. You can volunteer with them as a victim advocate, helpline volunteer, department support volunteer, or for their Victory Over Violence Run/Walk.

As frustrating as it may be to watch a friend experience an abusive relationship, you have to let them make their own decisions about whether or not to leave. Abuse is about power and control, and making them leave their partner takes away their agency. One Love and the National Domestic Violence Hotline both have resources on how to have productive, affirming conversations with your friends to help them.

Finally, nip domestic violence in the bud by having conversations with your friends about what healthy relationships look like and how to recognize the warning signs of abuse before they manifest. Everyone deserves healthy, safe, and empowering love.

Everyone deserves healthy, safe, and empowering love.

Kendall McCarthy is a double major in strategic communications & French at Texas Christian University, and 2021 President of Her Campus at TCU. Her friends describe her as enthusiastic, positive, and a friend to all-- so if you see her on campus, come say hi! When she's not working on HC, you can usually find her at Ampersand or Common Grounds or watching The Bachelor on Monday nights. Contact her at [email protected]
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