Tough Love

While many of us will be stuffing our faces with milk chocolate bunny rabbits and opening envelopes with inked hearts etched all over them this Valentine’s Day, others will count down the ticks and tocks of the class room clock, hoping for the day to pass. For many of those people, love is not the candy-coated expression it is for us; instead it’s a sour filled jawbreaker. This is the reality for students who are victims of domestic violence.

According to the Bureau of Justice, women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence. Let’s keep in mind here that victims of domestic abuse are not exclusively women but men as well. But before we address what can be done and why we should care, let’s briefly explore what domestic abuse is.

I do not wish to insult your intelligence by posing the question “What is domestic abuse?” However, I found, after inquiring several students, the consensus to be “harmful physical contact of some sort”. While this constitutes, it is one of many forms of domestic abuse. Verbal, mental, and emotional abuse as well as social sabotage and stalking are not only forms of domestic abuse but are all too common in student relationships.

Just because an act of abuse does not result in physical harm does not make it any less abusive than an act that would. I spoke with post-grad student Mechelle Pollard who holds a degree in Sociology. She informed me that “many victims minimize the severity of the abuse” and this can be dangerous. We often joke about being stalked by a lover and write it off as “cute”, or “weird but harmless”. Or we may chat with our friends about a defaming Facebook post by a lover or ex-lover and do nothing more about it. What we don’t realize is that our acceptance of what seems petty only makes room for more consequential acts of abuse. So why do students willingly accept this?

We often misconstrue less overt acts of abuse, such as shoving or poking, as “love taps” or charge verbal beatings to the abuser’s personality.  But for students who recognize these acts as abuse, they are finding it difficult to tell anyone. Why?

Most students, especially those living on campus, don’t have a support system anymore, which is usually comprised of family and friends. Consequently, communication about this issue is quietly swept under rugs. So what can we do about this?

We, as a student body, must become the support system away from home. We are the keepers of each other, especially while we are on campus. Do not be leery of contacting Georgia State Police, Georgia State Counseling Center, or Georgia State Health Clinic if you witness or suspect a friend is being abused. They are part of our support system. While $10 bouquets of roses and sweet treats make nice Valentine’s Day gifts, try giving the gift of support.