Panelists raise awareness about abusive relationships

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    Students heard multiple perspectives regarding dating violence as representatives from both the TCU campus and local women’s shelters discussed its affects at the “Break the Silence, End Dating Violence” event Wednesday evening.

    The event, hosted by the social work department, was part of the Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Awareness Week and was set up as an interactive discussion with a panel of six women. 

    People in abusive relationships cannot see how toxic their situation has become because they are in love, Mary Jane Themudo, a The Women’s Center research and training coordinator, said.

    “I see a lot of women who just expect coercive and manipulative behavior, they have no idea that it is unacceptable,” Themudo said.

    Julie Bassett works as prevention specialist at Safe Haven, a local women’s shelter. She began the discussion with an explanation of the warning signs of an abusive partner. She said it is crucial for students to know these signs so that they can avoid putting themselves in an abusive situation.

    “Physical abuse almost always begins with some form of emotional or verbal abuse,” Bassett said. “If a partner is being overly controlling, isolating their significant other and putting a lot of pressure on the relationship, those are major warning signs as well.”

    Officer Pam Christian, the university crime prevention specialist, said monitoring the amount of crimes relating to domestic violence at the univeristy is hard because there is no separate “domestic violence” category. Christian said the number of crimes overall from 2009-2011 have increased each year.

    “The statistics for 2012 have not been released yet, but I can tell you that they will show yet another increase in the number of crimes on campus,” Christian said. “And the number of harassment crimes will be the highest, much higher than any other year.”

    Glory Robinson, associate dean of Campus Life, said that while prevention is key, it is also important that students are aware of the resources available to help them or someone they know get out of an abusive situation.

    “We have a Victim Advocate Program which deals specifically with victims of assault, relationship violence, sexual harassment, stalking and rape,” Robinson said. “This program’s main goal is to empower and support the victim.”

    Bridget Loucks, a junior psychology major, said she thought the discussion was interesting because it provided so many perspectives and was not set up as a typical lecture.

    “I had no idea that domestic violence affected that many people,” Loucks said. “They told us tonight that one in three people have been in an abusive relationship at one point in their lives, and that is just way too many.”