Students who may be involved in an Abusive Relationship

Your responsibilities are not to diagnose or provide therapy; it is the development of a compassionate and forthright conversation that ultimately helps a student in trouble find understanding, support, and the proper therapeutic resources.

Facts about abusive relationships:

Abusive relationships are marked by strategies used by one person to maintain power and control over another. Because of the dynamics of an abusive relationship, victims may feel trapped and fearful of their partner’s anger, violence and/or abandonment, and thus may be reticent to disclose information about their relationship, even when abuse is suspected. Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional or verbal.

Indicators of abusive relationships can include:

  • Intimidation: Use of looks, actions, or violent gestures, such as smashing things, destroying property, abusing pets or displaying weapons so as to cause fear
  • Emotional Abuse: Use of put-downs, name-calling, “mind-games,” humiliation or guilt in an effort to erode self-esteem of the partner
  • Isolation: Controlling social interaction, movement, and involvements with friends and activities or use of jealousy to justify actions
  • Minimizing, Denying and Blaming: Making light of the abuse or not taking it seriously. Shifting blame for the abuse onto the victim – saying the victim “caused the abuse”
  • Violation of Privacy: Abusive partners may read notes, emails or text messages from others, or go through personal belongings
  • Using Privilege: For women who are abused by men: partners may use male privilege to make decisions on behalf of the other person. Those may include attempts to control aspects of academic life, requiring permission for big decisions, etc.
  • Coercion and Threats: Making or carrying out threats to do something to hurt the partner, including leaving, threatening suicide, reporting the partner to authorities regarding some behavioral or academic violation, making the partner engage in illegal activity
  • Abusive relationships happen in both same-sex and opposite sex relationships.

Recognizable signs are listed below:

  • Frequent bruises or injuries
  • Dressing in make-up or clothing to hide bruises and scars (e.g., wearing sunglasses inside,excessive clothing)
  • Making references about partner’s temper, jealousy or possessiveness
  • Restricted from social and other activities
  • Constantly checking in with partner to provide updates
  • Inconsistent or excessive absences from class
  • Exhibiting drastic personality changes (e.g., from outgoing to withdrawn)
  • Having limited access to financial resources (money, credit cards &/or transportation)

 What you can do:

  • Recognize that the student may be fearful, reluctant and vulnerable.
  • Remember that abusive relationships involve complex dynamics, including high levels of controlling behavior on the part of the perpetrator and/or denial or fear on the part of the victim. Therefore, the situation may be difficult to change.
  • Be aware that interventions from a variety of sources are helpful in assisting the student to recognize that options are available.
  • Be aware of the campus Sexual Misconduct Regulation, including what your campus crime reporting responsibilities and duties may be, as an university employee.
  • Refer the student to the Counseling Center (904) 620-2602, the LGBT Resource Center (904) 620-2939 (if appropriate), and/or the Dean of Students Office (904) 620-1491.
  • Refer the student to the Women’s Center (904) 620-1010 to discuss options and resources available.