One of the reasons I write this blog (and teach a class on social change, and work with college students) is that I believe too few people—in particular, too few college students--recognize how much power they have over their own lives and communities. It’s very easy to get into the habit of assuming that almost every institution or social dynamic you encounter is a given, beyond your capacity to change or affect. A great many intelligent people spend their lives drifting from situation to situation, doing what they think they are supposed to do, never really discovering and asserting their innermost selves, and never really challenging the set of assumptions in which they’re immersed. (That’s how I became a lawyer without ever really deciding to do so--a story I told here). For both the individuals and for society, this taken-for-granted helplessness can give rise to a lot of unnecessary pain.
In no context is taken-for-granted helplessness more devastating than in personal relationships. Dating violence is ridiculously prevalent on college campuses. Past research studies found that:
- 32% of college students report dating violence by a previous partner, and 21% report violence by a current partner. (Source: C. Sellers and M. Bromley, “Violent Behavior in College Student Dating Relationships,” Journal of Contemporary Justice, (1996))
- 12% of completed rapes, 35% of attempted rapes, and 22% of threatened rapes occur on a date. (Source: B. Fisher, F. Cullen, and M. Turner, “The Sexual Victimization of College Women,” (Washington: NIJ/BJS, 2000))
- 51% of college males admit perpetrating one or more sexual assault incidents during college. (Source: A. Berkowitz, “College Men as Perpetrators of Acquaintance Rape and Sexual Assault,” College Health, (1992))
This pattern undoubtedly reflects the difficulty of coming to terms with, and challenging, threatening and violent behavior in one’s own relationships or in friends’ relationships. It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of another person’s rage or private misery.
UMBC is about to join a national movement aimed at empowering all of us in connection with dating violence. On November 3, 2010 at 12:15 p.m. in the Sports Zone, UMBC will launch its participation in the Red Flag Campaign, an effort to help students identify “red flags” for dating violence in their friends’ relationships and encourages them to intervene. The Red Flag Campaign features a series of eight posters that illustrate “red flags” that might be present in a relationship in which dating violence is occurring. The campaign is a result of the combined work of students, faculty, and victim advocates from nearly 20 colleges and universities.
In addition, UMBC (through the Division of Student Affairs) has been awarded a grant from the Verizon Foundation to enhance domestic violence prevention within the UMBC community. The Red Flag Campaign event will be just the first of several related initiatives to go forward this academic year. The Division of Student Affairs is looking for committed work group members (faculty, staff and students) to serve in planning and implementing the work for each component of the grant. If you are interested in serving, please contact Kim Leisey (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Fritzie Charné Merriwether (email@example.com).