Congratulations! You’ve received your college acceptance letter and are preparing to embark upon a pivotal moment in your life. You’ve likely researched the variety of program offerings at your college of choice and have a list of the top five fun places nearby! You should also add another item to your college preparation portfolio: familiarize yourself with university policy and procedure.
Too often students don’t recognize the importance of university policy until they find themselves in the middle of a disciplinary matter. With growing instances of domestic abuse on college campuses, it is imperative that students understand reporting procedures and processes in place to ensure their safety.
- Know the warning signs of domestic abuse. Most people are generally aware that once a relationship turns physical it’s abusive. However, students should also be informed of the signs of emotional abuse as well as other indicators of controlling and abusive behavior.
- Know the number of reported crimes occurring on campus, including instances of domestic abuse. The federal Clery Act requires schools to compile statistics for dating violence on the campus as well as applicable policies. Request this data to understand the number of occurrences and preventative measures.
- Know university policy/procedure for handling domestic abuse investigations. You should be aware of where to report incidents of abuse, which administrators are responsible for handling such complaints and what documentation is required for filing a complaint. Also, learn what privacy protections are available to you during the complaint process.
- Know your legal rights. Title IX protects survivors of all forms of gender-based violence, including domestic violence. There are various safety measures available under Title IX that can assist students dealing with abusive situations and reduce the likelihood of contact with their abuser while on campus, including changes in housing situations, modifications to class schedules and the implementation of no-contact orders.
- Know what support services are available. Become familiar with campus resources and services offered within the local community to domestic abuse victims.
The closed environment of a college campus often adds a level of difficulty when investigating cases of domestic abuse. I recently dealt with the issue of domestic abuse on a college campus where the perpetrator of the abuse was an administrator and decision maker on the campus. My decision to involve the campus police department created an immediate conflict of interest due to the fact that campus police reported directly to university administrators and personnel. It became apparent that protecting the university from negative publicity was more important than documenting instances of abuse. I struggled with finding the support I needed. If you find yourself in a similar situation where the abuser is also an administrator and/or your complaint is not being handed properly at the university level, you will need to file a complaint beyond the university structure. Often local police will not have jurisdiction to investigate matters that occurred on the college campus, however you can contact the governing board for the university, elected officials, domestic abuse advocates and an attorney who can file a formal complaint on your behalf. You should also identify additional resources by contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233.
According to statistics provided by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, domestic victimization is correlated with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior. Additionally, victims of domestic abuse are at a higher risk for developing addictions to alcohol, tobacco or drugs. Domestic abuse should not be an issue that is quietly swept under the rug on college campuses. It imperative that administrators are informed about the instances of abuse and have mechanisms in place to address it to ensure a healthy campus and lifestyle for the student population.
What steps can university officials take to lesson instances of abuse on college campuses?
- Consistently review policy and procedures for handling domestic abuse
- Provide focused training to campus administrators regarding the proper handling of abuse cases
- Ensure that the campus culture is supportive of reporting and prevents the revictimization of the abused
- Have an efficient process in place for handling no-contact orders when issued
- Maintain fully staffed counseling and support services
- Educate students about domestic abuse and encourage student engagement
Tiffany Hill is an author, attorney, speaker and mentor empowering women to move from the pain of domestic abuse into their authentic purpose. Tiffany has been actively engaged in the higher education community and recognized for instituting the Young Women’s Empowerment Institute, a formal mentoring program for college students. Her company, TH Authentic LLC, assists women in safely reporting and handling domestic abuse incidents. She also encourages survivors through her book “Authentic Me: A Story of Strength, Perseverance and Faith,” which is available online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com. For additional information or to book Tiffany visit her website www.thauthentic.com or contact (318) 512-5189.