As the son of a domestic violence survivor, David Marshall is hoping to chip away some of the attitudes that perpetuate violence against women at his college. The senior at City University of New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice participates in the group Men Creating Change, consisting of a handful of students who organize domestic violence awareness events and gather to discuss traditional notions of masculinity. It took two years to get the group up and running, but now the chapter, which is part of the national organization Men Can Stop Rape, serves as a resource to prevent dating violence at the college.
Marshall and his peers start every meeting by discussing sexist or misogynistic comments they hear on campus, discussing personal experiences with violence, venting about academic or societal pressures and offering each other support.
"Because you talk to your girlfriend with respect or your boyfriend with respect, it doesn't mean that you're less than a man," Marshall said after a recent meeting. "So I think this program has really been great in getting to that, or helping show awareness of that."
Such campus groups and programming to combat dating violence are becoming more prevalent as increased awareness of dating violence forces students and administrators alike to address a problem that studies indicate affects one in five college relationships. Some schools address the issue through student orientation while others, like those in the CUNY system, have comprehensive policies on domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault.
Talking about dating violence isn't as taboo as it was in the past, says Jean Sung, one of the survivors who works on awareness programming for Day One, a New York City prevention group. Media coverage of high-profile domestic abuse cases--including the murder of 22-year-old University of Virginia lacrosse player Yeardley Love, allegedly by her boyfriend; and the assault of pop star Rihanna by her ex-boyfriend, R&B singer Chris Brown--has put the issue squarely in the national spotlight.
Sung, who has worked on dating violence issues for about eight years, says the 24-hour news cycle, Twitter, Facebook, blogs and the proliferation of technology in general have brought about greater awareness. "People are responding to the issue more," she says.
Tragic cases like Love's have spurred administrators to prioritize dating violence prevention and intervention services, says Dr. Luoluo Hong, vice chancellor of student affairs at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
"In part, as the media--in particular Internet technology--has brought broader, more frequent attention to the issues of dating and domestic violence on campuses, colleges and universities have had to face growing accountability for their programs and services, or lack thereof," says Hong.
According to studies, peer pressure plays a role in keeping an abusive relationship under wraps. Underreporting makes it difficult to keep accurate records of dating violence. However, U.S. Department of Justice data notes that young women between the ages of 16 and 24 years old experience the highest per capita rate of domestic violence.
"I didn't disclose until like three or four years after," says Sung of Day One, "because, especially at a young age, you're constantly worried about what other Dr. Luoluo Hong says the Internet has brought people are increased exposure to dating thinking about and domestic violence. you."
Day One officials point out several factors that make dating violence particularly insidious among girls and traditionally college-age students, including: they often don't have experience with relationships and don't know what to put up with; they don't know how to deal with an abusive partner; they lack financial independence; and they often have to get parental consent to be admitted into a shelter. …