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Breaking Silence: Domestic Violence on College Campuses

The sun arose brightly and the cool temperature blanketed Salt Lake City last Tuesday morning. Alarms blared into the still morning and soon, the rush of it all overtook any emotion – coffee was poured, cars started, and foreheads kissed as parents sent their children off to school – a new day. Laughter filled campuses as students poured in, catching up on gossip and sharing music with one another.  

The sun did not shine over the University of Utah – or at least, it didn’t feel like it. For Jill McCluskey, it felt as though the sun would never shine and the darkness would never disappear. Hours earlier, friends clutched on to one another as texts and news poured in quickly – fear filling students rapidly as campus alerts brought to life the horror that was taking place. I cried as I lay in bed – for Lauren, for her friends, and for her family. 

On October 13, McCluskey had reached out to University police after she sent Rowland $1,000 to keep compromising photos of her from being posted online. McCluskey “told campus police on October 13 that she had gotten messages from Rowland, whom she’d met the prior month, or from his friends demanding money in exchange for not posting online compromising photos of her and Rowland…” (Boyette and Sterling, CNN).  

On October 22, Rowland took to shooting Lauren on campus out of anger. Lauren McCluskey was shot to death by a 37 year old man whom she had briefly dated. 

Lauren’s case in one in thousands of cases that get filed each year and yet, go unsolved. Domestic violence is defined by the National Domestic Violence Hotline as “a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.” 

Domestic violence, is, among other things, one of the numerous terrible occurrences that does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone – race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender – and at the same time, anyone can be a perpetrator. It is not limited to those who are married – it impacts people who live together, those who are dating, and in Lauren’s case, to those who have previously dated. 

While Rowland’s motive and intentions may never be clear due to his self-inflicted death, it is clear that he wanted to do one thing – he wanted to harm her. 

Because domestic violence can happen to anyone, it is important to be aware of the warning signs – so you can take care of your friends and yourself.  Domestic violence isn’t linear – meaning it does not look the same way in every relationship. This is because the people in relationships are unique and have their own experiences that they bring into the relationship. However, one of the most common characteristics of domestic violence is that the perpetrator will do many different kinds of things to overpower their partner. 

Common signs of domestic violence include, but are not limited to a partner who: 

  • Tells you that you can never do anything right. 
  • Shows extreme jealousy of yours friends time spent away. 
  • Looks at you or acts in ways that scare you. 
  • Intimidates you with guns, knives, or other weapons. 
  • Pressures you to have sex when you don’t want to or do things sexually you’re not comfortable with. 
  • Driving recklessly or dangerously when you are in the car with them. 
  • Gaslighting: manipulating someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity. 
  • Forcing pregnancy and not supporting your decision about when or if you want to have a child. 
  • Forcing you to get an abortion, or preventing you from getting one. 

 

This list of signs of abuse goes on and on, touching on physical, emotional, sexual, reproductive, financial, and digital abuse. If you or a friend are in need of help, there are numerous resources that are capable of helping with finding a path to safety and holding the perpetrator responsible for their actions. 

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: Online or 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Utah Domestic Violence Coalition: 1-800-897-LINK (5465)

Individual universities have outreach programs for survivors and victims of abuse. Reach out to your university and local police if you feel as though you or a friend are being abused. 

A memorial fund has been set up at the University of Utah in honor of Lauren McCluskey. Funds collected will be used to support future scholarships for track and field athletes. 

 

“It was winter, lunar, wet. At dusk 

Pewter seedlings became moonlight orphans. 

Pleased to meet you meat to please you 

said the butcher’s sign in the window in the village. 

Everything changed the year that we got married. 

And after that we moved out to the suburbs. 

How young we were, how ignorant, how ready 

to think the only history was our own. 

And there was a couple who quarreled into the night, 

Their voices high, sharp:

nothing is ever entirely 

right in the lives of those who love each other. 

In that season suddenly our island 

Broke out its old sores for all to see. 

We saw them too. 

We stood there wondering how 

the salt horizons and the Dublin hills, 

the rivers, table mountains, Viking marshes 

we thought we knew 

had been made to shiver 

into our ancient twelve by fifteen television 

which gave them back as gray and grayer tears 

and killings, killings, killings, 

then moonlight-colored funerals: 

nothing we said

not then, not later, 

fathomed what it is 

is wrong in the lives of those who hate each other. 

And if the provenance of memory is 

only that – remember, not atone- 

and if I can be safe in 

the weak spring light in that kitchen, then 

why is there another kitchen, spring light 

always darkening in it and 

a woman whispering to a man 

over and over what else could we have done?   

We failed our moment or our moment failed us. 

The times were grand in size and we were small. 

Why do I write that 

When I don’t believe it? 

We lived our lives, were happy, stayed as one. 

Children were born and raised here 

and are gone, 

including ours.

As for that couple did we ever 

find out who they were 

and did we want to? 

I think we know. I think we always knew. “

            -Eavan Boland, 1944

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