Dating and domestic violence on campus

Although dialogue and efforts to prevent and end campus sexual assault have been a longstanding priority for many in the higher education community, the national conversation surrounding this issue has recently risen to a crescendo.

Many who have attended a professional student affairs conference or meeting in the past year have found the topic of compliance with the revised Violence Against Women Act to have arisen immediately and to have become a focal point of discussion.

The discrepancy in the numbers generated by the various research projects certainly suggests that more robust research is needed to discern the degree to which college students are involved in psychologically and physically abusive relationships.

Regardless of the numbers, however, the fact remains that institutions have as much of an obligation – both regulatory and moral - to address these issues as those of rape or other penetrative forms of sexual assault.

While our attention is understandably devoted to combatting campus sexual assault and debating consent, let us not forget to afford equivalent attention to the problem of dating violence on our campuses.As the White House Task Force appointed to make recommendations on statutory language soon realized, the numbers can be elusive since defining what constitutes “dating violence” or even what is a “dating relationship” in an era when the “hooking up” phenomenon tends to blur the lines.However, recent data provide important context to the importance of considering dating violence in efforts to create and sustain safe campus environments and affirm our educational mission as student affairs practitioners.Accordingly, colleges cannot limit their focus in policy and resource provisions to rape and/or sexual assault.Colleges and universities need to seek to better understand and address the causes of dating violence on their campuses and to institute prevention programs to modify the underlying attitudes and beliefs that permit, and often facilitate, such acts.

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