City Council, University work to raise awareness of dating violence

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

As Austin City Council plans to declare February Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month on Thursday, the University and Austin organizations are working to raise awareness about domestic violence and provide resources for victims.

Barri Rosenbluth, SafePlace’s Expect Respect program director, said she will be there to accept the proclamation from City Council. SafePlace, a resource center for victims of sexual and domestic violence, has worked to raise awareness about dating violence every February since 2010.

At the University, Voices Against Violence will continue to be a resource for students in abusive relationships, according to Erin Burrows, Voices Against Violence’s prevention and outreach specialist.

“Voices Against Violence supports people whether they choose to report and can also help [people] make that decision with [an] advocacy meeting,” Burrows said. “We support students where they’re at from a counseling perspective and raise awareness and prevent the issue on campus.”

University officials reported 21 instances of dating violence, 25 instances of domestic violence and 44 instances of stalking in the 2014 Annual Campus Security Report. The report defines dating violence as “violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim.” 

The report, filed in October of last year, is the first annual report to specifically list dating violence, domestic violence and stalking offenses, as required by a federal law passed in 2013.

Seventy-five percent of 16–24-year-olds have either experienced dating violence or known someone who has, according to a survey the Texas Council on Family Violence conducted in 2006. 

“We all know someone whose life has been touched by an unhealthy relationship,” Burrows said. “It’s something we know happens frequently in society, but it’s not something we talk about all the time. [Voices Against Violence’s] definition of a healthy relationship is one in which everyone feels safe to be themselves.”

Nutrition sophomore Riddhi Patodia said dating violence is a major societal issue that often goes unnoticed. 

“When you’re in a relationship, you don’t want people to know your problems,” Patodia said. “But what happens behind closed doors could be detrimental or even deadly or harmful. It happens all the time. I’ve never been a victim, [but] I know friends who have been through stuff like that, and they’re not themselves.”

A 2011 survey conducted by a German-based research firm, Knowledge Networks, found that 43 percent of “dating” college women experience some form of dating abuse. Burrows emphasized that violence can even happen outside of the term “dating.”

“We’re here for dating violence or even hook-ups,” Burrows said. “Dating can be an antiquated term. Some people don’t even call what they’re doing dating. We want to make sure all our resources are really relevant for whatever someone’s situation is.”

Rosenbluth said it is difficult to define an abusive relationship.

“What is it that makes you feel good, feel strong, helps you feel supported and reach your goals?” Rosenbluth said. “It’s important that everyone finds that for themselves and looks for relationships that meet that standard.”