A Student Perspective on Abuse and Relationships
by Erica West
As we continue through October, I’m sure a lot of us are getting excited about pumpkin spice lattes, fall weather and Halloween, but did you also know that October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month? Domestic violence is an issue that affects us all, and it’s important we know how to recognize the signs, as well as how to support a survivor of domestic violence. Firstly, domestic violence is defined as behaviors used by one person in an intimate relationship to control the other. Partners can be married, living together, or dating, and it happens in same-sex relationships just as often as heterosexual ones.
Not all abusive relationships do not look the same, but here are some helpful warning signs:
Domestic violence can still affect someone’s life even if they are not in an abusive relationship themselves. For college students, the situation is especially difficult. If someone knows that abuse is happening at home, they can still be affected by it while away at school. Oftentimes going away to college may mean leaving a parent, sibling, or other loved one at home in an abusive situation and this can cause guilt, anxiety and fear. Domestic violence can affect anyone, and learning how to support those who have dealt with it in an appropriate and helpful manner is a vital step in stopping this issue for good.
When supporting someone who has been affected by domestic violence, our instinct may be to stay out of it, ask things like, “Why don’t you just leave?” or confront an abuser directly. These are all things that can actually make the situation worse. Instead it is best to express concern but not judge, listen and validate, and offer support or resources rather than advice. A victim may make several attempts to leave an abuser before they leave for good, and it is important that we support those we know and love with whatever decision they make. By educating ourselves and supporting each other, we can take a step towards making our school and community a safer place.
Resources for you or someone you know:
• Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). (831) 459-2628, caps.ucsc.edu
• Caitlin Stinneford, UCSC Sexual Violence Prevention Educator. (831) 459-2721, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Stephanie Milton, Director of the UCSC Women’s Center. (831) 459-2169
• Walnut Avenue Women’s Center, 303 Walnut Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95060. (831) 426-3062
• Women’s Crisis Support-Defensa de Mujeres. 1685 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz, CA 95060. (831) 425-4030
• The National Domestic Violence Hotline, available 24/7. 1 (800) 799-7233
Erica West is a 4th year student at Merrill college, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Education. She is currently a volunteer with SAFE and the Condom Co-op, and provides presentations on sexual assault prevention and health relationships.