Education is necessary for mitigating relationship violence on campus

Elizabeth Braaten

Dating violence is defined as “a pattern of behavior in an intimate relationship that is used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation.”

A 2017 report done by the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault demonstrates the proliferation of dating violence at UT-Austin.

In this study, 16 percent of students said that they have been stalked since enrolling at UT. 

Eight percent said that they had experienced psychological abuse while in a relationship, and another ten percent reported experiencing physical abuse.

While incoming students are required to complete Sexual Assault Prevention for Undergraduates (SAPU), a course aimed at promoting healthy relationships and sexual assault prevention prior to coming to UT, there is no course whose sole purpose is building and maintaining a healthy relationship when romantically involved with another person. 

This is a serious flaw, as about 75 percent of college students report having had sex before the end of their time in school, and only one-third report having been on less than two dates in four years. Casual dating and relationships are both prominent components of college life, but our campus community is rife with problems. Clearly, dating violence rates are still high, as nine percent of students state that they’ve experienced relationship violence during their time at UT. Online lectures just aren’t enough. 

In order to be a leader in relationship violence prevention for colleges everywhere, the UT administration must implement a new program alongside SAPU that deals solely with how to define dating violence and healthy ways to avoid it. 

Voices Against Violence, a UT organization that prioritizes dealing with dating and sexual violence prevention, offers an array of workshops where students can be educated over what constitutes a healthy relationship and ways to prevent dating violence. Through collaboration with VAV, or by crafting an educational program of their own, the UT administration could take a big step in reducing this epidemic across our campus. 

“Education about domestic violence and abuse in relationships is important because it can be hard to understand what it is,” says Margaret Bassett, Deputy Director of the Expert Witness Programs at the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at UT. “That sort of education can be helpful because it builds self-awareness. The more information you have, the better decisions you can make.” 

Completion of an in-person course aimed at specifically dealing with healthy relationship training should be made mandatory for each UT student at the beginning of their college career.

This isn’t an option for the UT administration. It’s a necessity for student safety. 

Braaten is an international relations and global studies senior from Conroe.