Nearly 60 percent of young women reported that they have experienced some sort of abuse, according to a collaborative 2011 poll by Glamour Magazine. About half of those women said they have been in an abusive relationship. Even in the past few issues of the Scout, three incidents of domestic abuse have been included in the police reports.
According to Bradley’s Director of Counseling Deborah Montgomery Coon, it can be hard for people to tell that they are in an abusive relationship, whether it be physical or emotional. And it can be just as difficult to help a friend in that situation.
“It can be hard to get them to see what you see,” she said. “Try to provide them with specific examples of what you’re seeing and point out contradictions. If there have been a lot of changes in either person’s behavior, that is concerning.”
Montgomery Coon said there are many reasons people stay in abusive relationships, but that there are as many different reasons as there are relationships.
“Reasons can range from feeling like that’s the [only] person who will ever love them, or they may not know what a healthy relationship looks like, or they literally may be fearful that if they leave, the other person may retaliate,” she said.
When physical abuse in involved, Montgomery Coon said any kind of abusive act is cause for concern.
“A lot of times people try to justify the abuse,” she said. “Like they’ll say, ‘Well he or she made me mad.’ But even one incident makes you wonder what is going on with that person that they felt they could cross that line.”
Senior sociology major Amber Bates, who was the Vagina Monologue director in 2010, said it’s important to talk about taboo topics like domestic abuse.
“When you go to the Vagina Monologues you get stories of different women and the difficulties they’ve gone through,” she said. “For a moment you’re put in their shoes and it opens your eyes to something you may not have realized before.”
Bates said she has witnessed people close to her go through abusive relationships, and at times, it can be frustrating.
“I have several friends back home in abusive relationships where I say ‘You have to find yourself and reassess what you want.’ But they have to want the help to get out of the situation otherwise it’s like talking to a brick wall,” she said. “It would be hard for people to get out of a relationship like that.”
Victims of any kind of abuse need to know that they are not alone, and they can find help, Bates said.
“Domestic abuse victims feel like they don’t have a voice or they deserve their treatment,” she said. “I think there is strength in numbers, especially when people think they’re going through something on their own.”
For those who have gone through an abusive relationship, there are ways to seek help, Montgomery Coon said.
“There are resources available to them,” she said. “They have a right to pursue criminal charges if they’ve been abused, they can pursue judicial charges, they can call the counseling center or they can contact the Center for Prevention of Abuse.”
But if you or a friend is going through an abusive situation, Montgomery Coon said communication is vital.
“My personal opinion is that if you think somebody’s safety is at risk, you should always intervene,” she said. “Maybe the person does want help but doesn’t know where to get it.”