News Archive

Healthy Living - Relationship Violence

Did you know that approximately 1 in 3 college students will experience at least one violent intimate relationship in his or her lifetime? Did you know that at least 1 in 4 women are battered in the United States by her boyfriend, husband, or live-in partner each minute? Did you know that almost 500,000 women have reported being stalked by a partner in the past year? Did you know that women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence (National Institute of Justice, 2000)?

These are startling statistics and ones that we should take seriously. If we are to avoid becoming victims of relationship violence, then it is imperative that we try to understand the cultural and community factors that help to perpetuate it in our society and also know what to do if we are experiencing violence in our relationships.

Relationship violence can find its roots in such varied places as the media which promotes films with high degrees of physical, verbal, and sexual violence, acceptance of corporal punishment of children which teaches children that it is okay to strike others when you have lost control of your anger, gender inequality which has traditionally taught that men are the heads of the households and that women should be subservient to them, archaic viewpoints that women and children are considered the personal property of her husband or boyfriend, stresses which are associated with multiple work and family responsibilities, social isolation which is associated with lack of social support for the family, poverty which is associated with higher incidences of violence in the family, and inaccessible or unaffordable community services which are associated with lack of social support of the elderly and/or children in the family.

Relationship violence can take the form of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. Physical abuse can take the form of pushing, slapping, shoving, hitting, burning, spitting, kicking, etc. It would include anything that results in physical hurt or harm to the victim. Sexual abuse can take the form of forcing unwanted sexual behaviors on the victim, but also can include unwanted fondling and touching, unwanted sexual jokes and harassment, and the use of drugs such as alcohol or rohypnol (one of the date rape drugs) to prevent the victim from saying no or escaping from their attacker. Emotional abuse can take the form of criticism or ridicule, isolation, control, silent treatment, yelling, accusation, threats, demeaning behavior, restricting behavior, and demanding behaviors.

The cycle of abuse is important to understand because it helps us to detect potential patterns in our own relationships. It usually starts with a precipitating event that causes stress or tension in the home. An example might be the loss of a job. Next, drugs or alcohol may be used to escape from the stressor. This leads to arguments, accusations and blaming of the victim for the original stressor. Next, an abusive act(s) occur. This could be physical, emotional, or sexual in nature. This is initially followed by expressed regret from the abuser and forgiveness of the incident by the victim. Finally, there is a period of make-up activities that again lowers the guard of the victim and makes the re-starting of the cycle possible. As the abuse continues, however, there is progressively less regret and make-up periods and heightened aggression.

Some of the most common characteristics of abusers include: previous family history of child abuse, family conflict, parents who abused each other, dependent personality, low self-esteem, dependency, tendency to blame the victim and others for their own abusive behavior, pathological jealousy, Jekyll-and-Hyde personality, alcohol and/or drug user, unhappiness and dissatisfaction, anger and aggressiveness, and views their partner as a personal possession.

Some of the most common characteristics of victims of relationship violence include: low self-esteem, passive, feels helpless, enables the abuser, needs to be accepted, likes to please others, has a history of abuse in their family of origin, accepts blame for things they did not do, and thinks that no one else is experiencing this type of violence.

The following is a list of red flags that will help you to know if you are in an abusive relationship:

You are frightened by your partners temper and afraid to disagree with him or her

You apologize to others for your partners abusive behavior

You avoid family and friends because of your partners jealousy

You are afraid to say no to sex, even if you dont want it

You are forced to justify everything you do, every place you go, and every person you see

You are the object of on-going verbal insults

You have been hit, kicked, shoved, or had things thrown at you

What to do if you think you are in an abusive relationship:

1. Tell your abuser that the abuse must stop.

2. If you do not want sex, then say no firmly.

3. Have a safety plan handy including the phone numbers for the local police department, the BSCTC counseling department, the Floyd County Family Abuse Shelter, and someone else on campus that you trust.

4. Find a counselor or support group on campus or in your community.

5. Obtain a restraining order through your local magistrate or county court.

6. Get prepared to remove yourself from your abusers presence as evidence indicates that violence tends to escalate once the abused person decides to leave.

Rape or Sexual Assault

Rape is a special form of relationship violence because it focuses on unwanted sexual acts. A good working definition of rape is: non-consensual sexual penetration of the body using physical force, the threat of bodily harm, or other forms of coercion, such as incapacitation with alcohol or other drugs (Cowan, 2000; Young amp; McGuire, 2003). It is always wrong and the victim should never be blamed for saying no to such abuse.

Here are some commonly mistaken myths regarding rape:

Women encourage rape by their dress and actions.

Truth: Regardless of how she looks or acts, no one wants to be raped.

Men who rape simply lose control over their sexual urges.

Truth: Rape is not primarily a sexual act, it is an attempt to control someone through force, coercion, and violence.

Men who rape are mentally ill.

Truth: The vast number of rapists are not clinically diagnosed with a mental disorder, instead, most are married men with families.

Any woman can resist rape if she really wants to.

Truth: Most men are physically stronger and heavier than women and are capable of pinning a woman down to attack her. Additionally, some men use threats of violence and actual violence to subdue their victim. Also, some women may be unable to resist due to the use of alcohol or other drug intoxication.

Most rapes are committed by strangers.

Truth: Only a small fraction of rapes are committed by strangers. Instead, most victims of rape knew their attackersthey are friends, husbands or ex-husbands, boyfriends, other family members, classmates, or acquaintances.

All men are capable of rape.

Truth: Most men have not and would not sexually assault a partner. However, about third of all college-age men engage in behaviors that include sexual assault.

Current statistics reveal that more than half of all college women are the victims of some form of sexual assault or sexual coercion (Fisher, Cullen amp; Turner, 2000; Ottens, 2001). And, nearly all rapes on college and university campuses occur between people who know each other (Binder, 2001).

Ways to help protect yourself from being a rape victim:

Go to parties with friends and agree to watch out for one another. Never leave a friend alone at a partyespecially if she has been drinking or drugging.

Never leave a party or other gathering with a man you do not know well. However, if you do decide to do so, then tell a friend who you are leaving with so that someone will know in case you meet with foul play.

Avoid isolated areas and be cautious of areas like abandoned buildings, parking spots, etc.

Trust your intuition; if someone scares you or gives you a bad feeling inside, then avoid them.

If you have concerns about a partner, then consider double-dating with another friend who can look out for you if you are uncomfortable with your date.

Stay soberrealize that you have decreased ability to make judgements and reactions while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Set sexual limits and communicate them clearly to your datenever be afraid or hesitant to say no.

If you are going out on a date, find out where you are going and what time you will be home and tell someone about your plans.

(Houston Area Womens Center (2008); Powell (1996).

What to do if you are a rape victim:

1. Report the incident as soon as possible . This will facilitate an immediate description of the rapist and assist in their arrest.

2. Preserve the evidence of the rape . It is imperative that the victim not take a bath or shower, brush their teeth or hair, wash their hands, clothes, or bed linens so that crucial DNA evidence will not be lost. Although at the time of the attack, many victims do not want to press charges, but many of them may change their minds later and will need this evidence to punish their attackers in the future.

3. Obtain medical care . This is important to obtain various DNA collections and it would be important to treat possible STD infections and to obtain possible emergency contraception for any unwanted pregnancies.

4. Seek emotional support . Trusted family members, friends, and clergy may be able to give you the protection and support that may help to facilitate your recovery. Also, you may decide to contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-4673, or visit the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network Website at: www.rainn.org.

Suggested References :

Binder (2001). Changing a culture: Sexual assault prevention and the fraternity and sorority community. In Ottens amp; Hotelling (Eds.), Sexual Violence on Campus: Policies, Programs, and Perspectives (pp. 121-140). Springer: New York.

Cowen (2000). Beliefs about the causes of four types of rape. Sex Roles, 40, 807-820.

Fisher, Cullen, amp; Turner (2000). The Sexual Victimization of College Women. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

Gardner amp; Jewler (2006). Your College Experience: Strategies for Success. Wadsworth: United States.

Golanty amp; Edlin (2012). Human Sexuality: The Basics. Jones amp; Bartlett Learning: Sudbury, MA.

Hock (2010). Human Sexuality. (Second edition). Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, NJ.

Knox (2011). M amp; F. Wadsworth: Belmont, CA.

Ottens, (2001). The scope of sexual violence on campus. In Ottens amp; Hotelling (Eds., Sexual Violence On Campus: Policies, Programs, and Perspectives (pp. 129). Springer: New York.

National Institute of Justice Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, 2000.

Young amp; McGuire (2003). Talking about sexual violence. Women and Language, 26(2), 40(13).