Smith Vidal Literacy Series: Abusive Relationships
By Tamera Farrar
The Smith Vidal Literacy and Language Center presented "Why Do College Students Stay in Abusive Relationships?" on Tuesday as part of a series of forums to bring about awareness about common issues that today's students face. The center plans to have at least two programs per month to "...promote engagement among the students and build on an axis of success," said Dr. Debbie Wilson, a professor in the Department of English.
The event featured four of Bowie State's own students- Tonya McDay, Justin Jiggets, Sierra Wanzer and Chequonna Price- all who have been in abusive relationships, either physical, emotional or both. The forum provided a platform for the guest speakers to share their stories of being victims, how to recognize the signs, and how to escape.
"When you get into an abusive relationship, there's always something that will tell you," said McDay, a freshman communications major. "If you can't have an opinion about anything... (if) anybody wants to control you, don't just brush them to the side and think that that's just how they are. They're doing it because it's in them to do it, not because it's Wednesday and they're having a bad day."
Could it happen to anyone? The lecturers at the forum think so. "Never say it couldn't happen to you. You don't see it until it's too late," said McDay. "It's not what you see coming, but what you don't see coming." Wanzer agrees. "You really don't know what that person is capable of. By the time you develop feelings for that person, it's too late."
Jiggets shared his story about dating someone who was beautiful on the outside, but emotionally abusive. Price added a different view, sharing her story about fleeing from parental abuse.
Recent studies from the University of Pennsylvania indicate that among the various reasons that college students become abused is simply being vulnerable. The transition to college can make one feel vulnerable. Being a new student in a new place could mean weaker social support system, less parental supervision, a hunger for acceptance, or a lack of knowledge of available resources.
Nationally, relationship abuse is a growing problem among undergraduate students. Earlier this year, an investigative report for the Archives of Pediatrics & Medicine found that nearly 25% of college students surveyed, both male and female, reported being either a victim or an aggressor in a relationship while in college. Before and during college, females reported being victims more often than males for physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. However, males were more likely to be the aggressors in sexually abusive relationships in college.
The research also concluded that men report abuse much less often that women because of denial, shame or embarrassment. That could be a time where a third party could speak up. "If you have a friend, classmate, a teacher even--talk to them, McDay advised. Talk to someone and try to get them some help. Tell them you have a phone number or a resource. A lot of the time, they want the help but they're too ashamed to say it."
Staying in a situation in a hope that it will resolve itself is not encouraged. Leaving the relationship is usually the only way out. Escaping the grips of an abuser starts with self-empowerment. "I had to learn to love Tonya first," said McDay. That was the hardest thing I ever did in my life. The things I needed to depend on came from within. " she added.
"You can't really get rid of the person unless you know for a fact in yourself that you can. But when you leave, you can't go back. It's just not worth it."