February is National Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. We all know those first loves can feel amazing, but for many college students — statistically one in three — those first encounters turn into abusive and often violent relationships.
Navigating relationships, both romantic and platonic, can be a difficult task. Especially in college, when students are given opportunities to meet new people and foster new connections, the path to healthy relationships can be a bumpy road. College can be the place you find your closest friends, your best mentors, or even your life partner. But, unfortunately, not all relationships are positive healthy ones. According to Loveisrespect.org, nearly half (43%) of women dating in college report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors, and the numbers are high among college men.
Dating abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic standing, ethnicity, religion, or culture. One in 10 college students report they’ve been purposefully hit, slapped or physically injured by a boyfriend or girlfriend, but only 33% of students who were in a violent relationship ever told anyone about the abuse. Perpetrators of intimate partner violence thrive on secrecy. They shame their victims into believing that the abuse is their fault, that they deserve it, and that things will get worse if they talk about it.
Anyone can be an abuser, and anyone can be a victim, regardless of their identities, such as gender, race, age, class, ethnicity, religion, year of graduation, fraternity, athletics team, major and more.
The first step to fighting this abuse is to have the tools and knowledge necessary to identify when it is happening, either to you or to someone you know. Once we can see signs of abuse, we can start to combat it in our daily lives.
If you are being abused or know someone who is being abused, The West Virginia University Prevention Educators and Peer Advocates are available for consultation Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Also, you may remain anonymous by using the Equity Assurance Hotline at (304) 906-9930. Follow the Peer Advocates on Instagram and Facebook @wvupeeradvocate
Akeya Carter-Bozman is a Prevention Specialist for Title IX & Equity Assurance through West Virginia University’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.