Understanding domestic violence on campus

Kaz Alvarez/Sun Star Reporter
Nov. 5, 2013

Since the start of fall semester, there have been four reported incidences of domestic disturbances out of 39 case reports of criminal activity generated by the UAF Police Department from the UAF campus and surrounding areas.

“Over the past four years, I have not seen an increase on campus,” Officer in Charge of Investigations Steve Goetz said. “A bigger prevalence that we’re seeing is the harassing, texting and communications that are unwanted.”

Due to the requirements of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, UAF is required to provide students with annual crime reports from on and around campus. According to the combined report for  2010-2012, two reports of aggravated assault were reported in 2011, and one report was made in 2012. However, nothing distinguished the assaults as domestic violence related in the report.

“An assault may be a domestic violence incident or it may not be. We do not track those separately,” Project Officer Laurii Woodruff said. “We get a lot of reports occurring off campus, but because they are affiliated with campus, they’ll call our department and it makes them feel safer.” Off-campus reports are not included in the annual crime report.

The Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting created by the Federal Government instructs campus police departments to classify domestic violence as an aggravated assault alongside attempts to murder, poison, maiming and attacks with a weapon.

The Fairbanks Police Department’s annual report for Fairbanks reports domestic assaults and calls into the dispatch regarding domestic assaults. These reports show a much higher rate of domestic violence compared to incidents on campus.

Domestic violence can be described as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure or wound someone,” according to the United States Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women’s website.

Domestic violence can involve name-calling or put downs, keeping a partner from contacting their family or friends, withholding money, stopping a partner from getting or keeping a job, actual or threatened physical harm, sexual assault, stalking and intimidation.

The rise of social media is factoring more into domestic disturbances and assaults each year. “People can post things in the heat of the moment, the next person responds, and now it’s out there for everyone to see,” Goetz said. “It leads to a lot of tension in relations that didn’t exist before.”

While social media can inflame a situation more, it can also provide the authorities with an information trail. After receiving a complaint or making an arrest, they can acquire access to a party’s social media accounts to see if there is a history of threatening or abusive behavior.

In terms of younger couples on campus, if partners live close to each other, tense situations can compound and lead to explosive relationships. Students who live in the same dormitory, have the same classes each semester and hang out in the same social groups may have no escape when there is a disagreement and no safe place to think things through.

When situations arise in dormitories on campus, the UAF Police Department can trespass couples from the other person’s dorm or floor to allow them that safe place. “A lot of people are in a relationship for the first time and the difficulties of interactions contributes, to some extent, to domestic issues,” Goetz said.

One of the reasons that the UAFPD doesn’t receive very many on-campus domestic violence calls is that students have a lot to lose if convicted of a crime. Their housing, academic standing and employment are at risk. 

Another preventative measure against domestic violence comes from the efforts of Residence Life. Domestic assaults are automatically reported to UAFPD, but if Residence Life officials are made aware of a dispute, they can mediate or provide conflict resolution resources. ResLife can also block access to dorms to allow each person involved to have a safe place.

Everything is situational,” said Associate Director of Residence Life, Jamie Abreau. “No domestic violence situation is the same.”

There are a number of resources on campus to help prevent or report domestic violence. Individuals living on campus can always alert their Resident Assistants, Resident Directors or the Residence Life office. The UAFPD can be contacted to report an incident or a complaint. Students who have paid their Student Health Center fee are able to request counseling for six sessions without paying an additional cost.

According to domesticviolence.org, anyone can be a victim but the important thing for victims to remember about domestic violence, and any other form of abuse is that it’s never their fault, and help is always available.

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