Love, respect & domestic violence

As Valentine’s Day approaches, an official from the Brookings Domestic Abuse Shelter reminds college students the damage that an unhealthy relationship can cause. She advises students on tips for safe dating and how to protect himself or herself in the dating world. 

Sara is the director of finance and outreach at the Brookings Domestic Abuse shelter; it is the Domestic Abuse Shelter’s policy to retain the last name of their employees but she can be reached by contacting the shelter.

According to Sara, the domestic abuse shelter is a “24-hour crisis shelter” and they also provide a “24-hour crisis hotline.” The shelter offers counselors, crisis intervention, weekly support groups and “public education and outreach.”

“We do a lot of referral services so if somebody comes in and doesn’t necessarily need shelter but they have been a victim of [domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault] they might just be looking for other community services that could help them… we can help them get connected with other community organizations,” Sara said.

The shelter provides a safe and supportive place for people who have been involved in domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault, Sara said. The shelter also helps people with legal advocacy; they help people handle and understand different legal procedures.

“We can help people obtain protection orders, we can also fill out petitions to meet them at the courthouse and help them get it filed,” Sara said. She wants students and people dealing with legal issues to know that the shelter and staff are there to “support and advocate for those who might need to work through [their legal dealings].”

 An unhealthy relationship can lead to domestic violence, stalking and abuse. According to Sara, behaviors to be mindful of include “excess or explosive anger, emotional abuse or humiliation, some unmanaged addiction, extreme or irrational jealousy, manipulation, control, isolation and … physical and sexual abuse.”

 Behaviors that may seem “normal” can be clues that a relationship is unhealthy. Another clue of an unhealthy relationship is when one of the partners starts to change due to the controlling nature of a dating partner.

 “If it’s an unhealthy relationship you might be insulted in front of others by your partner, quickly losing their temper, making all the decisions in the relationship … you might notice that your behavior has changed,” Sara said. “So you’re spending all your time with your dating partner … losing interest in, giving up on activities that were once very important for you, feeling afraid of your partner, feeling depressed or anxious, not wanting to discuss your relationship with others.”

Helping Everyone Reach Optimal Health is an organization on campus that focuses on student health. Brooke Weber, a biology, psychology and physician assistant major a fifth year senior, is the co-chair for the sexual health committee.

“The committee’s main goal within the scope of sexual health is to promote prevention and promote the importance of being knowledgeable in all areas of health,” Weber said.

According to Weber, the committee focuses on all aspects of sexual health, which include: “cancers associated with sexual health, sexual assault, sexual harassment, STDs/STIs, safe sex, consent, relationships, hooking up versus relationships.”

Weber thinks awareness is the key when it comes to safe dating, sexual health and sexual harassment.

“The best thing about any of these topics is to be informed before put into a situation that could be a problem or beneficial,” Weber said. “Simply being aware of the consequences and effects associated with these three topics is useful.”

Sara said that students should make rules for first dates and follow them.

The top tip, according to Sara, is trust your instincts. She said to not rush into a relationship and try to find out a lot of information about the date and that students should make sure to meet in a public place and to let friends know how a date is going.

“It’s important to know that it’s never your fault if violence is inflicted on you,” Sara said.

Sara said there is a cycle of abuse; if it happens once, it is likely to happen again. If students are in violent relationships, talk to an adult about the situation.

“Remember … love is respect,” Sara said. “We’re not going to judge people.”