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Protect college women

Women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rates of domestic violence. Approximately 32 percent of college students are victims of dating violence. When we think about domestic violence - intimate partner violence - we usually associate the word with a physical act of violence involving a married couple. We rarely label unhealthy college relationships in the same category despite the harsh statistics.

Intimate partner violence is not just physical abuse involving the use of force. According to the Department of Justice, domestic violence is defined "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." This not only includes physical abuse, but also encompasses verbal, psychological and emotional abuse. It also involves stalking and sexually harassing an intimate partner. More than 40 percent of college students who have reported being stalked were stalked by their boyfriend or ex-boyfriend, and 13 percent of college women reported being forced into sex by their intimate partner.

Compared to the general population, rates of intimate partner violence are higher among college students. The average rate of domestic violence against female college students is 16 per 1000 compared to 6 per 1000 for the general population. College women are often the ones who stay in an abusive relationship for reasons such as emotional, psychological or physical coercion.

Until this year, relationship violence, stalking and sexual exploitation were excluded from the University's sexual assault policy. The newly revised Sexual Misconduct Policy, however, now explicitly prohibits stalking, relationship violence, sexual exploitation, which includes causing another's incapacitation, recording or transmitting sexual images and the knowing transmittal of a sexually transmitted disease.

Intimate partner violence is more common in a college setting than we would assume. It is not just limited to male perpetrators but involves both females and males. To stop the violence, we must ensure that our loved ones have the support they need to end abusive relationships and seek help.

As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Women's Center is sponsoring numerous events to bring about recognition of the issue. For the list of events, visit this link: http://uvawccal.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/domestic-violence-awarness-month-events/.

For more resources related to the issue, go to www.virginia.edu/sexualviolence.

\nSaha Khaterzai \nCLAS III

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