Whether you’re starting your freshman year or getting ready to graduate in the spring, you’ve probably got a lot on your mind as a college student this fall. There are new classes to attend, dorms to move into, and assignments to complete. In the back of your mind, you may be wondering about your safety while on campus.
Sadly, college campuses are not always the safe havens they should be. Domestic violence is a serious and widespread issue for college students across North Carolina and throughout the nation. The Raleigh area is home to several large universities, and our domestic violence lawyers in Raleigh urge students to raise awareness of the problem and take steps to protect themselves.
How Domestic Violence at the University Level Is Different
Domestic violence – that is, violence between intimate partners – is a horrifying form of aggression. The abuser terrorizes his or her victim using physical force, coercion or threats, and takes advantage of a person he or she claims to care for. Domestic violence can, but doesn’t always, occur in acts of sexual abuse. Unfortunately, young victims of dating violence are often hesitant to come forward because of societal stigma and fear of retribution.
The university environment can further exacerbate the fear associated with domestic violence. A victim of domestic violence may feel that coming forward would threaten her or his social reputation, or would “ruin the life” of a prominent campus figure (though, of course, it was that prominent figure who broke the law).
Social media now plays an increased role, as teenagers and college students have the opportunity to covertly bully and threaten victims online.
Many students are also away from home for the first time and may feel isolated from their trusted support networks, especially family.
Beyond the social pressures, there are administrative challenges to face. Some colleges conduct their own hearings in response to student reports of domestic violence, but they may drag their feet. Many students have reported not being taken seriously or being put through arduous and disorganized hearings.
Victims are sometimes forced to continue attending class alongside their abusers or even live in the same residence hall. These missteps may stem in part from the mistaken perception that most college students prefer to “hook up” rather than engage in committed relationships, and that instances of dating violence are nothing more than isolated disputes between students. This is as offensive as it is incorrect. Most students do not frequently “hook up,” and instances of violence between intimate partners in college are a form of domestic violence.
Domestic Violence on College Campuses Is All Too Common
Domestic violence is sadly all too common on college campuses, and not enough is being done to address this issue. About 1 in 5 college students say they have been abused by an intimate partner, and nearly a third admit to having committed assault against their partner at some time in the previous year, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Women are at a higher risk. In fact, women ages 16 to 24 suffer from domestic violence at the highest rate of any surveyed group, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report. Among victims ages 18 to 24, nearly 30 percent of female murder victims were killed by intimate partners.
In more than two-thirds of cases of domestic violence against women, the women reported that the assault included physical violence (being hit, pushed down, or otherwise physically attacked). The rest involved the threat of physical violence or attempted physical violence. Threats are considered to be domestic violence, as the goal is to physically terrorize the victim.
Instances of domestic violence tend to occur at home (or perhaps in a residence hall) at night, when there are less likely to be witnesses. Moreover, on campus, stalkers and abusers are even likely to have keycard access to the victim’s residence. Victims of domestic violence may feel they have nowhere to turn.
Legal Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence at College
Though many families and students may be unaware, victims of domestic violence on campus are protected by Title IX. This same law has received plenty of publicity as it concerns equal athletics funding, but its purview over dating violence has perhaps been underplayed. Colleges and universities have the duty to investigate instances of domestic violence among their students and to take measures to protect victims from their abusers.
However, those campus hearings are not legal trials, and administrators cannot put an abuser in jail or issue legal protective orders. It’s important to keep in mind that victims of college dating violence have options outside of campus resources, too. In some cases, they may find that law enforcement provides a more thorough response than college administrators.
If you have been a victim of domestic violence in Raleigh or elsewhere in Wake County or North Carolina, you should contact an experienced domestic violence attorney immediately.
- S. Department of Justice: Violence by Intimates
- Times Leader: New regs targeting sexual assault on college campuses now in effect
- Sexual Assault Prevention & Awareness Center: Dating and Domestic Violence on College Campuses
- Know Your IX: Campus Dating Violence