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Relationship Violence and College Students

Pictured: Shannon Jones, a student at Cornell University, was strangled to death by her boyfriend on Thanksgiving 2014.

Inside Higher Ed: Below are several exerpts taken from an article written December 2014 by Jake New , a reporter for Inside Higher Ed.

On Black Friday [2014], Nadia Ezaldein, a University of Chicago student, was working at a Chicago Nordstrom when her ex-boyfriend entered the store, found her in the accessories department, and shot her to death. It was her 22nd birthday. A day earlier, on Thanksgiving, Shannon Jones, a student at Cornell University, was allegedly strangled to death by her boyfriend during an argument. Police described the murder as a "domestic incident." [Benjamin Cayea, 33, has since been found guilty of the murder.]

In October 2014, Cecilia Lam, a San Francisco State University student and advocate for the prevention of domestic violence, was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend.

Diamoney Greene, a student at the University of South Carolina, was killed by her boyfriend. Both killings were murder-suicides.

While not currently at the forefront of a national conversation, domestic violence remains as prevalent an issue among college students as sexual assault. One in five students have experienced domestic violence with a current partner -- a statistic that directly mirrors the U.S. Department of Justice’s findings on student victims of sexual assault (though some have contested those findings). More than 30 percent of students say they have experienced domestic violence with a previous partner.

As with cases of sexual assault, most incidents of domestic violence go unreported, meaning the number is likely much higher. College-aged women experience a higher rate of partner violence than any other age group. Thirteen percent of college women say they have been stalked, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Of college students who have been sexually assaulted, 35 percent of them were assaulted while on a date.

Six in 10 acquaintance rapes on college campuses occur in dating relationships. That’s why preventing nonsexual partner violence is often approached in the same manner as preventing sexual assault on college campuses, said Lisa Maatz, vice president of government relations at the American Association of University Women. In fact, many prevention methods for sexual assault, she said, are based on methods previously created for preventing domestic abuse.

“It’s all on a continuum,” Maatz said. “When we’re talking about sexual assault, we’re basically talking about violence against women. And attempting to prevent that is a holistic approach that starts with sexual harassment and goes through sexual assault and even murder. When we talk about these things, we have to talk about them on this continuum."

Maatz admitted, however, that domestic violence is often less discussed than sexual assault on college campuses, even as more and more colleges are wrestling with how to prevent violence against women.

“It would be fair to say that we don’t really hear as much about domestic violence, but there are really proactive steps being taken now to address that oversight,” she said.

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