Domestic violence reports see large increase

Seven times as many cases of domestic abuse to have been reported to University Police this semester than last.

Since students returned to campus in August, there have been seven cases reported, compared to one in the same period of time last year.

At least one of the incidents led to a hospitalization.

While an increase from one to six could mean that there has been an increase in domestic violence, it more likely it means that more people have reported it for one reason or another, said Norma Rossi, director of communications for the Center for the Prevention of Abuse.

“People are becoming much more aware of domestic violence,” she said.

Domestic abuse on college campuses is more common than most think, said Carol Hennon, the training coordinator for the center.

“Everyone has this false sense of security on college campuses,” she said. “Students think ‘everyone’s nice here, everyone is here for the same reason. This is a little safe cocoon.’ ”

Because of that, some people have their guards down.

But it’s not as if there’s a certain kind of person who becomes a batterer, Hennon’s term for the abuser in a relationship. She said she avoids using pronouns because while 95 percent of victims are women, 5 percent of batterers are also women.

“They are spread across all walks of life, all races, all ages,” she said.

Despite increased awareness, many consider domestic abuse only physical violence, but other issues fall under that umbrella.

“It includes emotional, sexual and financial abuse,” Hennon said. “Displaying isolating behaviors, not letting the victim see friends, constantly checking up on the victim when they’re out and neglect are all other forms of domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse in all its forms is what Hennon called a learned behavior of power and control.

“It’s one person wanting to exercise their will over another,” she said.

Domestic abuse involves a cycle of violence with three parts in which the victim is trying to avoid the batterer or abuser.

“It starts off with an escalating behavior, it’s been described as feeling like you have to walk on eggshells,” Hennon said. “Next, the victim is constantly trying to prevent the batterer from getting angry by trying to do one thing, like keeping the house clean or dressing a certain way. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen. Only a batterer can control [their] own behavior.”

The next step in the cycle is the incident. Either someone throws a punch or acts in another abusive way. After that the batterer apologizes, which gives the victim the opportunity to see why the person they fell in love to begin with.

Then, the cycle continues, Hennon said.

Batterers aren’t outwardly violent people, though.

“They’re incredibly charming and persuasive,” she said. “The only time they need to exercise their power and control is over their partner, no one else sees it.”

Anyone involved in an abusive relationship should contact the Center for the Prevention of Abuse at its 24-hour number, (309) 691-0551. There are on-site counselors and legal aides who can help in domestic violence situations.