Mar 22, 2019
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A shelter from the storm

By Patricia Moratto
Collegian Staff Writer

College-aged women face high risk of becoming victims of domestic violence

Some students hear the term “domestic violence” and immediately think of older women with children who are trapped in a lifelong cycle of abuse.

But one may be surprised to know that according to the U.S. Department of Justice, women ages 16-24 are the most at risk of becoming victims of domestic violence. College-aged women are commonly the victims of dating violence, which consists of verbal, psychological and physical abuse.

According to the California Department of Health Services, 80 percent of women continue to date their abusers even after they have been victimized. One socioeconomic theory as to why this happens speculates a combination of transferred family abuse in addition to a lack of education. This cyclical pattern of family abuse builds what is called “relationship programming,” into a person, and they start to perceive the chaos as normal.

“Victims tend to deny and minimize what their partners inflict upon them,” said Bob Meade, clinical supervisor at the Marjaree Mason Center. The center is a community service center that provides shelter and services for victims of domestic violence.

“There are two times that abusers often first exhibit violence towards their partners: the day a woman announces pregnancy, and shortly after the couple marries,” Meade said.

These two events frequently happen while women are in college. The average age of undergraduate students at Fresno State is 22, according to the California State University data recording Web site, “csumentor.edu.” The average age for the campus, which has many commuters and return students, is older than the average age for many other universities. This leads to older students, and many more students who are married or have children.

“Too many violent incidents go unreported and it’s important that we educate ourselves by being aware of the sexual assault, intimate partner violence and stalking indicators in order to advocate and assist the survivor in their time of need, said Mica Vargas of Fresno State’s Violence Prevention Program, which is located in the Women’s Resource Center on campus.

Fresno State offers the Women’s Resource Center where services, literature and programs are provided for victims of relationship violence. The Women’s Resource Center works hand in hand with the Student Health Center to provide Fresno State students any confidential resources needed to prevent or recover from a damaging relationship.

Two major reasons as to why younger women may hesitate to report abuse are reported by the California Department of Health. First, college-aged women may feel a group peer pressure to appear in a normal, healthy relationship. They fear a lack of confidentiality may spill their problem into the public. At that point, they will be exposed and embarrassed. The second reason younger victims don’t always report is that they are unsure about laws. Abusers use this ignorance to their advantage.

All services provided at Fresno State are strictly confidential.

With advancing technology, social networking sites are leading way to a new breed of problems in the world of domestic violence. Web sites like MySpace and Facebook are the cause of conflict and enable stalkers.

“We see men track down their victims, who have restraining orders against them, by reading comments left on the victims MySpace page,” said Jenny Whyte, a volunteer coordinator of the Marjaree Mason Center.

“These batterers establish where the victim will be at what time and go there,” Whyte said. “Comparable problems have been a result of text messaging and e-mail,” Whyte said. Although the causes of violence are much deeper than these issues, stalking victims in these ways is a means abusers exercise control.

According to the Marjaree Mason Center, 61 percent of the victims who utilized the center’s services were under the age of 34, indicating the reality that domestic violence affects many college-aged people.

For students in need of help or advice, the Women’s Resource Center, located in the University Business Center, is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The center’s number is 278-4435.

The Marjaree Mason Center is located at 1600 M Street in Fresno. Its emergency hotline is
1-800-640-0333.

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