Reports indicate increase in dating violence

by Life Editor Melissa Parker

Nearly half of college women who date report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors.

At least 57 percent report dating violence is difficult to identify and 58 percent report they do not know how to help someone who is experiencing it, according to loveisrespect.org. The Love is Respect website offers resources, anonymous chat and quizzes.

“We’re seeing a lot more students from UNA,” said Executive Director of Safeplace, Inc. Rachel Hackworth. “There’s an increase in the number of people in the college age group that are experiencing domestic violence.”

People are not equipped to deal with it and do not know how to identify it, she said.

“You have to know what to look for in a healthy relationship and also in an unhealthy relationship,” she said.

A healthy relationship involves respect, trust and communication, she said. An unhealthy relationship is about power and control.

Keeping a person isolated from friends and family, controlling what he or she wears, asking for digital account passwords and wanting that person to check in often are signs of an unhealthy relationship, Hackworth said.

“Physical abuse is usually a very small part of domestic violence and unhealthy relationships,” Hackworth said. “Just the threat of that can hold that power and control together.”

Hackworth, along with Executive Director of Shoals Crisis Center Samantha Belville and Executive Director of One Place of the Shoals Angie Hamilton will take part in a panel discussion at the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library March 20. Director of the Center for Women’s Studies Lynne Rieff will moderate the discussion.

They will discuss how these agencies work together to provide services for victims here in the Shoals, said Florence-Lauderdale Library Programming and Publicity Coordinator Jennifer Butler Keeton.

This event is the last in a series titled, “Confronting Violence: Improving Women’s Lives” that began March 1.

Senior Eboney Curtis is trying to start an additional resource for UNA students.

Curtis said she was in an emotionally abusive relationship. Now, she wants to start a One Love team at UNA.

The UNA One Love team will be a Registered Student Organization, and members will learn what to say and do for victims of relationship violence, she said.

In 2010, the boyfriend of University of Virginia student Yeardley Love beat her to death, Curtis said. Though the signs were there, no one noticed them or knew what to do.

Sharon Love, Yeardley’s mother, began the One Love Foundation to bring awareness of the signs of abuse to college students.

The national organization currently has nearly 6,000 members, including members at the University of Alabama, Jacksonville State University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

It was hard coming out of an abusive relationship, Curtis said. The resources One Love provided helped.

Curtis has been working closely with Title IX Coordinator Tammy Jacques. The Title IX office is funding everything, while Curtis focuses on educating fellow students.

“It’s so important, and you think it can’t happen to you and you think it can’t happen to your friends, and it can and it is,” she said. “One in three women and one in four men are going to experience some type of abusive relationship in their lifetime.”

Freshman Lacee Johnson realized she was in an unhealthy relationship when her partner separated her from family and friends.

“My partner would get really angry whenever I would want to go see other people, even if it was just friends and family,” she said. “I wasn’t allowed to be anywhere alone.”

It took working two jobs and paying this person to leave her house for her to finally be free, Johnson said.

It is not fair for people in relationships to tell others who they can or cannot be friends with, said sophomore Chris Daniels.

“It’s mainly a trust issue,” he said.

Curtis set up One Love information tables in the Guillot University Center March 4 and 9 and is hosting an interest meeting March 14 in the GUC Loft from 5-6 p.m.

“I don’t want it to just be students,” she said. “I don’t want it to just be girls. I want faculty to be involved in this. I want men to be involved in this. I want the community to be involved in this. It’s so important that people know and understand what they can do.”