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Dating Violence: The unspoken offense on campus

A verbal altercation outside Hendricks Hall between a female PLNU student and her ex-boyfriend, a non-PLNU student, escalated to a scene of violence which continued off-campus. In a March 21 notice released by Public Safety, they said “the suspect broke the side-view mirror of her vehicle before following her off campus, where he then broke her windshield and driver-side window.”

Officer Billy Hernandez with the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) said in a phone interview that the suspect punched through the victim’s driver-side window during the off-campus altercation.

After the off-campus altercation, the PLNU student returned to campus and filed a report with Public Safety and SDPD is investigating. In accordance with the Clery Act, a timely warning email was sent out the next day to the campus community and surrounding neighborhood on March 21. The incident was classified as dating violence.

The female PLNU student who was the victim of the recent dating violence incident initially agreed to share her experience via email, but subsequent attempts to contact the victim for comment were unsuccessful.

The issue of dating violence crosses all genders, races and social circles, yet women are subject to this abuse at a higher rate. At PLNU, women make up 65% of the total undergraduate student body. The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control says, “young women between the ages of 18 – 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, almost double the national average.”

The 2016 Annual Security Report for PLNU’s Point Loma Campus defines dating violence as, “violence by a person who has been in a romantic or intimate relationship with the victim. Whether there was such relationship will be gauged by its length, type, and frequency of interaction.” While this definition outlines the terms of a relationship, it begs a question of what behavior constitutes dating violence.

“Often, one of the things to be on the lookout for when you’re in a relationship with someone is whether or not there is give and take,” says Dr. Max E. Butterfield, a professor of psychology at PLNU. “Dating violence, or relationship violence, doesn’t always start and probably doesn’t even typically start with physical aggression. And so one of the things in particular I would say to be on the lookout for is a controlling partner.”

In general, Dr. Butterfield said that if a person has to change their behavior to avoid angering their partner, this can raise concerns of an unhealthy relationship. In a report by the Department of Justice, they said “dating violence includes, but is not limited to, sexual or physical abuse or the threat of such abuse.”

Between 2013 and 2015, there were no instances of dating violence reported on the annual security report. However, the story of dating violence does not begin and end on the pages of the Annual Security Report for the Point Loma Campus.

As a school community, we must support victims of any sort of crime, Matt Wilson, the Resident Director of Hendricks Hall said. Residential life has opened the discussion of difficult topics including sex, depression, suicidal ideation and stress through dorm events in order to break the taboos of these issues, Wilson said.

“The larger Christian culture around sexuality definitely impedes the fluidity of reporting,” Wilson said. “I don’t think a lot of people would report for that reason. I just encourage that this is a grace filled place, we [PLNU] want the best for you. I think apart of that step is reporting that type of violence across the spectrum.”

A 2011 survey by Knowledge Networks found that 58% of college students do not know what to do for someone they know who is a victim of dating violence. Kaz Trypuc, a supervisor for Public Safety, said that once a student reports a crime, PLNU provides a variety of victim services and support, whether that crime happens on or off campus.

“We make sure that our students get well connected with residential life, with the Wellness Center and with other advocates on campus,” Trypuc said. “These situations are extremely complex and require a great deal of resources to be able to respond appropriately. I just don’t think that people need to bear that burden alone.”

Both Wilson and Trypuc recommended the Wellness Center as a first resource for students who experience a traumatic event and seek professional attention. Repeated attempts to contact the Wellness Center to talk about how they assist students resulted in an automated response, providing links to issues unrelated to dating violence.

Across the PLNU campus, administrators and Public Safety alike said that silence is not the answer. The issue of dating violence cannot be told by statistics alone and requires people to speak out for each other.

“The more you keep it to yourself, whether it’s fears about a loved one or whether it is something happening to you personally, the less likely it is that there will be a positive solution,” Dr. Butterfield said. “The more you can bring this out into the open, the better.”

About the author

Natallie Rocha

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