Alexis Moreno, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at the University, led a series of trainings on dating abuse prevention recently on campus including one for a Black Student Union event last week.
Moreno said the workshops, besides educating the community, supported her research.
“With the data that we are gathering … we will be able to see what are the strengths and limitations of the program, and improve the program as needed,” Moreno said.
Moreno used a program called “Love is Not Abuse” to educate different student groups, and gauge the program’s effectiveness.
The program comes from Break the Cycle, a non-profit organization that provides comprehensive dating abuse prevention programs for young people, ages 12-24. Senior speech communications major and BSU President Bradlee Johnson was eager to host the training.
“It’s essential for college students to get this type of education,” Johnson said. “Whether they were personally affected by something of the sort, they have a friend (who was) or in the future they’ll experience an acquaintance going through something like this.”
Johnson was an resident assistant last year and in her training, she was taught how to handle situations that involved dating abuse and other dangerous situations.
“I think it’s extremely important for all students, especially college students to go through training and education because it is a common occurrence that we do not talk about,” Johnson said.
Whether the person is the victim or the witness, knowledge is key.
“Being able to be empathetic, (and) knowing how to handle it,” Johnson said.
Johnson said she thinks some people think domestic violence happens only within a marriage, but it can start with a dating relationship.
According to Break the Cycle’s website, dating abuse is series of abusive behaviors over a course of time. The abuse is used to over-power and control a significant other.
Albert Perez, a postdoctoral fellow in Counseling and Psychological Services, said that there are many types of abuse: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and digital or online abuse are the more common ones.
“One that is really not talked about is stalking,” Perez said. “It would be considered a type of abuse because it’s unwanted.”
According to Break the Cycle’s website, dating abuse is an issue that affects all demographics. However, young people between the ages 16 and 24 experience violence more often than any other age group.
One in three young people, ages 14-20, experience some sort of dating or sexual violence, according to the American Psychological Association.
Perez encourages any abuse victims to come forward and report the incident.
“A good therapist creates a safe environment to talk about whatever it is (the victim) needs to talk about,” Perez said.
Perez said there are certain warning signs in a relationship that could potentially be an indication that the situation will lead to abuse.
“If they have a tendency to try to isolate them, or try to encourage them or force them to stay away from their friends, family and roommates, or try to control in terms of who to text, or on social media, that might be a sign,” Perez said.
If the victim is a friend, he or she might defend their partner in every situation, Perez said.
“In terms of physical abuse, some of the signs include bruising,” Perez said.
Other signs of dating abuse include low self-esteem, jealousy and attempts to hide or lie about bruises. This can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts, Perez said.
He stressed how it is important to express concern without asserting control and remain supportive of the victim.
Additional methods to help dating abuse victims include validating the victims’ experiences and not giving them ultimatums, Perez said.
ULV students who find themselves in dangerous dating situations can contact University Counseling and Psychological Services at 909-448-4105, or after hours at 909-448-4650.
Vanessa Oceguera can be reached at email@example.com.