Relationship violence represents dangerous reality

While celebrating love, it is important to realize not all couples have a safe relationship. Relationship violence is a problem that has detrimental effects on victims.

“Relationship violence is a pattern of abusive behavior which usually occurs between individuals who are involved in an intimate relationship,” said Yaschica Williams, department chair of sociology and family studies. “One partner uses physical violence, fear, coercion, intimidation or manipulation to maintain power and control over the other person.”

Jennifer Berry, senior licensed mental health counselor for Student Counseling Services, said there is a myth that domestic violence is only between men and women, but it can be between same-sex partners as well.

“There is no definitive answer as to why relationship violence occurs, however there are factors which contribute to it, such as growing up in an environment where one learns this type of behavior,” Williams said.

Senior Aurora Green said she saw her mom deal with abusive relationships.

“I feel like as a child growing up exposed to it, it shaped me to keep people at a distance, especially men,” she said. “I learned you had to walk on eggshells and you shouldn’t get attached because they suddenly disappear. Nothing you do or say will be good enough, and you learn to depend on yourself.”

Senior Jacob Dawson said he believes there are reasons people often mistake feelings of codependency for love.

“It can be hard to find someone that makes you feel like you belong, and once you do, you don’t want to let go,” he said. “However, depending on someone for comfort and sense of self prevents one from thinking objectively.”

Berry said the beginning of the relationship is when the abuser begins the cycle of drawing someone in to degrade them.

“We rush into relationships a lot of times, and we may miss and kind of catapult over the red flags that are there,” she said.

Williams said since a person may not recognize they are in an abusive relationship, everyone should look for warning signs.

“This could include jealous or possessive behavior, trying to isolate you from friends and family, wanting to always know where you are, checking your cellphone or email without permission and wanting to consume all of your time,” she said.

She also said to look for stalking, coercive behavior, an explosive temper, verbal abuse, and using any type of physical force, she said.

She said violence can result in various long-term effects on victims.

“The individual who experienced the abuse could suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, loss of self-esteem, suffer from depression, become less trusting of themselves and others, and the traumatic experience could affect the quality of future personal relationships,” she said.

Senior Leah Hilpertshauser said mental, physical and even self-abuse are scenarios too many people have to experience.

“When you lose your voice and you quit trusting your gut, then you’re being manipulated,” she said. “Nobody is worth losing yourself over. Understand you are worthy of all things this world has to offer.”

Berry said Student Counseling Services offers confidential appointments with licensed professional counselors.

Steven Stracener, university investigator at One Place of the Shoals, said they offer help to all victims of abuse at no charge.

“Victims can get assistance with obtaining criminal warrants, protection from abuse orders, cease and desist letters, obtain legal counsel both in and out of court, scheduling crisis counseling, housing and other resources.”

They also offer forensic medical examinations related to sex crimes, emergency shelter, a court advocate and other family advocate services, he said.

Students interested in volunteering at One Place of the Shoals may contact executive director Elizabeth Moore at 256-284-7600.