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Relationship abuse grows on university campuses

April 29, 1997

By Martha Roberts

Lariat Reporter

What would you do if a stranger came up to you on the street one day and slapped you in the face?

Would you say, 'He was just in a bad mood'--or, 'I must have done something to deserve that'? Probably not. Most people would not be able to imagine turning the other cheek to such violence--from a stranger.

What if, however, you were attacked by your boyfriend or girlfriend? What then?

Unfortunately, some University students don't have to imagine what they would do if they found themselves in an abusive relationship. Some students who are aware of domestic violence at the University disagree about the severity of the problem. However, there is help available on campus for men and women who need it.

Dr. Glenn Pack, director of the campus Counseling and Psychological Services center, said domestic violence at the University is 'not an overwhelming problem, but it is a serious problem' among both males and females.

'People rarely come in for these kinds of problems,' Pack said. 'People in long-term relationships or marriages usually have to be assaulted numerous times before deciding to get out.'

University students who were contacted revealed differing opinions on the frequence of domestic abuse at Baylor.

'I'd have to say there is a problem at Baylor,' Ashley Nelson, a San Antonio junior, said. 'I think it's a problem any time that happens.'

David Paek, a Gladewater senior, disagreed.

'I don't think it's a real big problem, but I am aware of it,' Paek said. 'I know Baylor is doing what they can.'

According to an article in the Kansas State Collegian, two to four million women are victims of domestic violence each year. The article cited a national study that said on college campuses averaging 20,000 students, 800 women will be victims of abuse.

According to Section 22.01 (A-1) of the Texas Penal Code, assault occurs when a person 'intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person's spouse.' Assault is a state jail felony if the offense was committed against a family member by someone convicted of assault against a family member at least twice.

There is also a provision of Texas law allowing the district attorney's office to prosecute domestic violence cases even against the victim's wishes. Victims often try to protect their abusers from prosecution out of love or intimidation.

Pack said that abusers and their victims often both suffer from insecurities and a lack of self-esteem, which can lead the abusive partner to become very jealous and controlling. Abusers typically try to isolate their partners from friends and family and restrict their activities, but meanwhile, 'they can do whatever they want,' Pack said.

The victim is made to feel so inadequate that he or she feels that there is no other option but to stay in the relationship.

'People who stay in or get into abusive relationships often have a hard time getting out because the abusers make it very difficult for them to leave,' Pack said. '[The abuser is] always telling them that they're not good enough to find anyone else.'

Often, physically abusive relationships begin with emotional or mental abuse, Pack said, and as time passes the abuse escalates into violence.

Judy Davis, director of the Kansas State University Crisis Center, said in an April 15 article in the Kansas State Collegian that aggressive behavior and physical restraint are often precursors to violence.

'A slap becomes a closed fist or a choke ... once the relationship crosses into physical intimidation of any form, there is no safety anymore,' Davis said.

'This kind of abuse is something you can defend yourself against physically,' Pack said, 'but [the victims] keep getting beat up and coming back for it.'

There are often warning signs in the early stages of a relationship that can indicate a potentially abusive situation, Pack said. Often, though, certain warning signs can be exactly what a man or woman is looking for.

'People need to look out for people who are too romantic, who are always showing up, sending little notes, saying 'I can't live without you,' pushing for an early commitment,' Pack said. 'The highs are very, very high. Some victims are willing to stay in the relationship to experience those emotional highs.'

Other warning signs include jealousy, attempts to control or isolate the victim and an oppressive or 'clingy' attitude.

Pack said that most of the domestic violence victims who come for counseling are referred through the Health Center. Mental health counselors then help the students examine their options, including leaving the relationship, getting a restraining order or entering a shelter for battered women.

The University health center was unable to provide statistics on the number of students who have sought treatment for abuse-related injuries.

'The main thing these folks need to do is get into therapy and work through some of these issues,' Pack said. '[Domestic violence] is more of a long-term problem, and as a short-term facility we don't see a lot of these people through the long term, but we do see a lot of people in the beginning stages.'

Pack said group therapy for abusers is often the best course of treatment. However, according to an article published on the Internet, at least 40 percent of men participating in abuse rehabilitation programs still beat their partners. Figures were not available for female abusers.

Any student who is in a relationship that has become abusive may contact the Health Center, or call the Counseling Services center in Kokernot Hall directl.

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