Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of columns discussing healthy relationships and sex lives from The Daily in partnership with the Gender + Equality Center, Goddard Health Center and Norman’s Adam & Eve. Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and although many college students are entering their 20s, dating violence can look fairly similar on all levels.
Dating violence can include controlling, abusive and aggressive behavior in a romantic relationship, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime.
The Daily asked Bliss Brown, coordinator for gender-based violence prevention programs for the Gender + Equality Center, and Leanne Ho, the GECs gender-based violence prevention intern, about what dating violence can look like and what resources are available on campus and in Norman.
What are some signs of dating violence, and what all does that include?
Most people know that if your partner hits you, that isn’t OK, but dating violence can take many forms, from physical abuse to emotional abuse. Signs of emotional abuse include control (ex: if your partner won’t let you see your friends), manipulation (ex: if your partner threatens to hurt themselves if you don’t give them attention), or gaslighting (ex: if your partner dismisses or invalidates your feelings).
What can dating violence look or sound like from the outside?
If your friend seems afraid of their partner or reluctant to share details about their relationship, that could be a red flag. Their partner might also prevent them from spending time with you, which might look like flakiness or constant unavailability. Unexplained injuries can signal physical abuse.
If someone has a friend in a problematic/abusive relationship, what can someone do without isolating the friend even more?
Although it might be difficult or confusing to see your friend getting hurt, it’s important to remember that there are many reasons that someone might stay in an unhealthy or abusive relationship. The best thing you can do is be there to listen and to offer resources. You can’t force your friend to leave the relationship, but you can be there for them until they’re ready to do so, and then support them afterward.
What are some common misconceptions people may have around dating violence?
Misconception No. 1: “This would never happen to me.” Some people think that they would break up at the first sign of abuse or that they would never get into a relationship with an abusive person in the first place. The problem is that many abusers are excellent manipulators, who challenge boundaries and force victims into vulnerable positions.
Misconception No. 2: “Jealousy is a sign of love.” In reality, jealousy is one of the first warning signs of an unhealthy relationship. It is a sign of insecurity and distrust. We all can feel jealous from time to time, but using jealousy as an excuse to control a dating partner is abuse. If you start to feel jealous, it’s important to communicate openly and honestly with your partner.
Misconception No. 3: “Men can’t be victims of dating violence.” The reality is that anyone, regardless of gender identity, can be affected by dating violence. In addition, men may be less likely to report dating violence because they’re afraid of not being believed.
What resources are available on campus or in Norman for those in an abusive relationship?
OU Advocates is a 24/7 hotline for OU students, faculty, and staff experiencing sexual violence, stalking, harassment, and dating and domestic violence. You can call this number anytime day or night, 365 days a year to get support, ask questions, or get connected to other resources like free counseling, the rape crisis center, the sexual misconduct office, or the police department. There are both male and female advocates, and all OU Advocates services are free & confidential.
The Women’s Resource Center is a non-profit organization in Norman and is not a part of the University of Oklahoma, but they work closely with our OU Advocates team. The WRC provides several services, including Rape Crisis Center, Domestic Violence Shelter, Courtroom Advocacy & Legal Aid, Free Counseling, and Support Groups. Despite the name, it also serves men and gender non-conforming people.
Last but not least, the Gender + Equality Center, which runs the OU Advocates program, is a great place to go to get connected to other resources. Located on the second floor of the Union, right by Meacham Auditorium, the GEC is open 8-5, Monday through Friday. If you don’t feel comfortable calling OU Advocates, you can walk into the GEC and an Advocate will be available to assist you with anything you might need.
If you or a loved one may be a victim of dating violence or abuse, please reach out to one of the resources above or dial 911 in an emergency.
For other questions about healthy relationships, sex or other interactions, please ask a question anonymously using our Google Form.