With the #MeToo movement drawing more attention to sexual assault, violent situations are at the forefront of everyone's minds. But while we now know just how rampant sexual assault is on college campuses, one equally destructive kind of violence isn't getting the same type of attention.

Domestic Violence Statistics

Women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence per capita across the United States. This means that college women are at the highest risk for domestic violence in relationships than any other age group. According to data from the University of Michigan:

  • 21% of college students reported dating violence by their current partner
  • 32% reported dating violence by a previous partner
  • 53% of all domestic violence survivors were abused by a current or former significant other (more than half!)
  • 42% of college women who reported being stalked say they were stalked by a current or former boyfriend
  • 60% of acquaintance rapes on college campuses occur in dating relationships

One of the major factors for domestic violence on college campuses is that many victims don't recognize the signs of abuse. According to a 2009 Teen Dating Abuse Report, as many as 70% of young people don't realize they're in an abusive relationship. Psychologists argue that if emotional or physical violence is presented in someone's first defining relationship, it limits the survivor from understanding healthy relationships moving forward. Over time, that person could continue to fall for abusive partners.

The majority of college students today have reported knowing someone being abused. However, many choose not to intervene - out of fear it will make it worse, fear of retaliation from the abuser, or feeling it's not their business to get involved in someone else's relationship. Domestic violence attorneys claim it can be very difficult to find evidence for domestic violence because these cases are largely based on the word of one person against another. But if you believe a friend is the victim of intimate partner violence, it's important to say something.

Signs of Domestic Violence in Relationships

There is not always an easy way to identify if someone you care about is being abused. Domestic violence comes in many forms, including emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, and digital abuse. Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of behaviors by one partner to maintain control over the other. In college relationships, this can look like a variety of different things. A few red flags include:

  • Extreme jealousy
  • Possessiveness
  • Controlling who a partner sees and what they wear
  • Unpredictability
  • Bad temper
  • Forced sex or disregard for partner's consent
  • Sabotaging a partner's birth control, or refusing to respect agreed upon methods
  • Blaming a partner for anything and everything
  • Accusing a partner of flirting or having an affair
  • Demanding access to a partner's phone or personal records
  • Controlling a partner's finances or exclusive control over shared finances
  • Demeaning or embarrassing a partner in public situations

Many abusers have common traits, including extreme insecurity and the ability to appear charming to those outside the relationship. They'll often compensate for abusive outbursts with overdone apologies and moments of perfect happiness, then snap back into abusive behavior as soon as something doesn't go their way. To many on the outside, abusive relationships can seem perfectly happy. And to many in abusive relationships, they've become conditioned to make excuses for their partner by saying "they're not like this all the time" or "it's okay, it was my fault".

The frequency at which college women experience domestic violence should be alarming and cause for concern. If you believe someone is being emotionally abused, talk to them about their circumstances then speak with someone you trust about how to move forward.

Changes on College Campuses

Many schools are becoming aware of the threat of domestic violence, and are creating rules to make a change. The U.S. Department of Education published changes to the Cleary Act in 2015, requiring colleges to college statics for reports of dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. Colleges are also required to have a report of how they're handling domestic violence cases in their policies and procedures.

There is still a long way to go with drawing awareness to this issue. But as in any situation, if you see something, say something.