Dating violence needs to be addressed as strongly as sexual violence on college campuses, according to D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence Program Director Elizabeth Odongo in a discussion about dating violence in the Intercultural Center on Tuesday.
The event, cosponsored by Georgetown’s chapter of sexual assault awareness group Take Back the Night and the DCCADV, addressed ways for students and bystanders to intervene and react to instances of dating violence on campus through activities and conversations.
Sexual Assault Peer Educators member Victoria Shakespeare (SFS ’19) said while arguments are common in relationships, dating violence occurs when a specific line is crossed.
“Couples disagree on things all the time, but the way you disagree about things is different,” Shakespeare said.
Dating violence, including physical and emotional abuse, extends to stalking and domestic violence, according to Odongo.
According to “Love is Respect,” a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, one in three American adolescents is a victim of abuse from a dating partner. Forty-three percent of college women report dating violence and abuse early in life can have lasting effects.
Half of dating violence victims attempt suicide and are at a higher risk for substance abuse and depression, according to “Love is Respect.”
Odongo stressed the need to raise awareness around dating violence on college campuses.
“Universities are getting better and better at supporting people with sexual assault but not dating violence. They’re trying to keep it in the conversation, but we’re not spending as much time talking about dating violence statistically,” Odongo said. “More students will suffer from dating abuse than they will sexual assault on college campuses.”
Take Back the Night President Maddy Moore (SFS ’17) said it is important to recognize that dating violence can take a variety of forms.
“The conversations right now are really focused around sexual violence and the one-time incident of violence that someone might experience, and we frame it in a way that’s like happening at a party with stranger, but it’s really important to think about how this is a spectrum, and a spectrum of violence can start with anything from harassment to someone in a very serious longterm relationship experiencing patterns of abuse,” Moore said.
According to Moore, it is important to take steps to address all forms of violence.
“It’s important to reframe how we think about violence, especially when it comes to acknowledging that dating violence on college campus happens and that there are people experiencing economic, physical, psychological, emotional, sexual abuse in their relationships with their roommate, in a partnership, with maybe a close friend, and often we’re overlooking that,” Moore said.
Odongo said instinct was crucial in identifying situations of abuse.
“If you feel like something’s not right, trust your gut,” Odongo said. “A lot of the time, we can’t explain why we feel certain ways about certain people, but in my field, our gut is the most important thing.”
Odongo said the personal nature of relationships can make support from friends or family challenging, however.
“It’s absolutely up to the survivor about what happens next,” Odongo said. “There are reasons why people don’t leave abusive relationships. We have to trust that they know their relationship the best and when they’re ready, they will leave.”
Moore said she has seen a positive cultural shift in the university in discussing sexual assault and dating violence on campus.
“There’s definitely a lot more work to be done, more communities to reach and conversations to have, but I’m glad that it’s been moving forward,” Moore said.