Stop Domestic Violence

by James Larimore | 10/12/04 5:00am

To the Editor:

I am writing to bring community attention to an important issue that is not acknowledged often enough on our campus. The issue of relationship abuse is a concern on national, international and local levels. According to a United Nations Study on the Status of Women, a woman is battered somewhere in America every 15 seconds, usually by her intimate partner. A 2001 study reported in The New York Times suggests that one in five adolescent girls become the victims of physical or sexual violence, or both, in a dating relationship. It is important for all of us to recognize that Dartmouth is not a sanctuary from the issue of relationship violence.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. While we clearly need to be aware of this issue throughout the year, during this month we can take advantage of many opportunities to educate ourselves further and to expand our awareness of this problem that affects us all in some way. Those we love are not protected from the possibility of relationship abuse based on socio-economic status, educational level, culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation or other differentiating factors. The chances are high that each one of us knows somebody whose life has been negatively affected by relationship abuse.

One person in a relationship exercising power and control over another is not healthy and constitutes a form of abuse. Often those who experience abuse report that the emotional betrayal hurts more than the physical trauma experienced. This reminds us never to minimize the harmful effects of emotional and verbal abuse. On our campus, reported incidents of relationship abuse have risen from five in 1997-98 to 16 in 2002-03. Increased reporting does not necessarily indicate increased incidence. Instead, it is likely to reflect our growing awareness as a campus that this kind of abuse needs to be addressed and stopped. As an institution, we are currently reviewing and revising our policies and protocols regarding sexual assault and relationship abuse to better address these concerns.

We ask for your informed engagement around this issue on our campus. We have the power as a community to create an environment in which each student, regardless of gender, is able to pursue his or her academic career safely and freely. We are capable of interrupting behavior that we witness without undue concern about how it might impact our social status. If we all agreed in the month of October to step in just once to interrupt behavior that demeans women on our campus we could turn the tide on the tacit social acceptance of behavior that ought to be regarded as unacceptable.