Monday, February 23, 2015

Don't Stay Silent: Shining a Spotlight on Dating Violence

Statistics from say one in four young people report emotional, physical, or sexual abuse from a dating partner each year. Those actions can range from emotional and verbal abuse to physical or sexual abuse.

February is Teen and Young Adult Dating Violence Awareness Month, and the Campus Police Department is doing its part to make sure every student knows it's their responsibility to help anyone they know who might be in an abusive relationship.

Assistant Chief Angie Lawson said there are several options for helping those who might be in trouble. While reporting the issue is important, Lawson said students don't always have to report the issue to campus police. If someone is in an abusive relationship, any staff or faculty member can be notified anonymously to help address the situation.

"A lot of people want to be involved, but they don't want to be involved. It's a catch-22 for a lot of people. A lot of people don't want to involve campus law enforcement, especially the victims, so they don't report it to us," Lawson said.

While reporting an incident can be a scary thing, it's still important to say something. First-year student Holly Wilson believes fear keeps many people from reporting anything when it comes to abusive situations.

"So many people don't even think about it. I would say some people are just abusive relationships just because they want to have someone with them. Maybe they're just too insecure or scared to say anything," she said.

Lawson said knowing when to report is one of the biggest issues police see when dealing with issues of dating violence and abuse. Programs that aim to educate people on bystander intervention such as Step Up, which Campus Police are working on integrating into student programs, is just one of the many ways students can be educated on the importance of reporting.

"It takes a whole army to try and change the culture, and if we can take a few steps to help, then that's worth it. Step up and say something, even if it's a text to a friend. Let us know, so we can do something about it. The silence is what's killing us," she said.

The Campus Police Department is located in the lower floor of the Wood Building. For more information on how to report abuse or prevention, call 615-230-3595. For more information on dating violence, visit LoveIsRespect or the CDC's Division of Violence Prevention website. The National Dating Abuse Helpline is 1-866-331-9474.

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