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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Op-ed: We must turn our attention to dating violence on campus

Ariella Neckritz, a junior double-majoring in human services and women’s studies, is the president of GW Students Against Sexual Assault.

For many, the Foggy Bottom Metro station is just a site of the everyday commute, a means to participate in internships, service activities and nightlife. But for me, it is a site of trauma. It is a reminder of pain, manipulation and hurt. It is a trigger that will never disappear.

Freshman year, I attended a party with students from neighboring universities. I was hit on by an upperclassman, totally flattered to have interested a student who I thought was mature, intelligent and attractive. We exchanged numbers and I was unsure if I would hear from him, but afterward, he texted me constantly, always checking in and wanting to know what I was doing.

I saw all these actions as part of a caring effort to learn about my life, but soon, what I began to experience was abusive behavior. His attempts to constantly monitor me, control my actions and isolate me from my circle of support were tactics of power.

As we started dating, the abusive behavior escalated with threats, insults, intimidation, manipulation and false accusations. Since his abuse was spun in among compliments, promises and profuse apologies, I continued to overlook his disrespect of my feelings, mental well-being and boundaries. But eventually, after friends voiced their concerns, I decided to break it off.

On Jan. 18, 2013, standing next to the Foggy Bottom Metro, I told him that I felt our relationship was unhealthy and that we needed to break up. He responded by threatening to commit suicide if I ended it, describing in detail all the ways he could kill himself. Although a few hours later he messaged me to clarify he never actually intended to harm himself, the threat and its emotional impact still haunts me.

Now, two years later, and as the president of GW Students Against Sexual Assault, I have come to identify as a survivor of dating violence. Although the terminology most commonly used to describe relationship violence is domestic violence, abuse can happen to people in all relationship configurations – not just to those who live together.

Some terms that survivors also use to describe their experiences are relationship abuse, intimate partner violence, dating abuse and domestic abuse. While, historically, much emphasis has been placed on physical abuse and finding visible marks like bruises to identify survivors, the ways in which people experience dynamics of power and control and abusive behavior are varied.

Dating violence can include sexual, emotional, psychological, spiritual, economic, verbal and digital abuse. Twenty-one percent of college students report they have experienced dating violence by a current partner, and 32 percent report dating violence by a previous partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

This issue is pervasive across college campuses, and we need to acknowledge its existence in the GW community: There were 18 reports of domestic violence at GW in 2013.

This October, to correspond with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, GW Students Against Sexual Assault is focusing its annual campus-wide education campaign on dating violence. In light of the media’s recent attention to domestic violence, we feel it’s important to discuss abusive relationships in the campus context. We see this as an opportunity to raise awareness and provide education and resources.

For the campus community, this is an invitation to join a movement to create a culture of respect. I urge students to respect boundaries, be active bystanders, listen to and believe friends when they disclose, submit CARE reports and engage with the campaign on social media.

Thanks to campaigns like this, I learned there was terminology to describe my experiences. Thanks to campaigns like this, I learned how to identify abusive behavior. I learned there were support structures to offer help and resources for healing. Although my pain and triggers are still there, let’s work to stop abusive relationships.

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