Two weeks ago, St. Cloud State University’s (SCSU) Women’s Center held its Women on Wednesday event, which covered the topic of abusive relationships. To continue commemorating Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Women’s Center Director, Jane Olsen, discussed how they continue reducing dating violence on SCSU’s campus, by making the issue more widely known amongst students.
“The only way to truly stop abusive relationships from perpetuating on campus, is making students more aware of its severity, so they can help eliminate abuse from their own lives, or someone else’s,” Olsen said.
For 30 years, The Women’s Center on SCSU has been striving to provide victims of abusive relationships with the proper solutions, responses, and services to help students and anyone affected get back on the right track.
“The Women’s Center has partnered with Counselling and Psychological Services, so that we can provide victims and survivors with all of the attention and support needed,” Olsen said. “Our trained, on-campus advocates, can also provide confidential and non-judgmental services to further console victims.”
Olsen says that male students on campus “are not concerned enough with dating violence,” and lack the understanding of how severe abuse can be. Although studies have shown that victims in an abusive relationship tend to be women, men still need to realize that this is a huge problem and should support others who are impacted by the issue.
“We have begun encouraging men on campus to start really thinking about ways that they can start intervening and support people around them who are struggling with dating violence,” Olsen said. “Men can start making a difference, by being there for friends who may have experienced abuse in a relationship, while also confronting friends who may be doing the abusing.”
To inform lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) members on abuse in their own relationships, The Women’s Center has collaborated with professionals who have more knowledge and experience regarding the LGBTQ community.
“The Women’s Center is currently partnering with the LGBT Resource Center, to launch an innovative program on healthy relationships within the LGBTQ community,” Olsen said. “The program includes group sessions that teach LGBTQ students about pursuing healthy relationships, while also addressing the unique and specific needs of LGBTQ students.”
An SCSU Human Relations Professor and former advocate, Lucille Guinta-Bates, spoke about the actions that should be taken when helping someone currently in an abusive relationship. She said that consulting a friend in an abusive relationship can sometimes be nearly impossible since some victims are still in love with their abuser.
“When a person is ready to leave an abusive relationship, this is the perfect opportunity for a friend to reach out to them and suggest various resources that will help them,” Guinta-Bates said. “The much more difficult situation, however, is when a person doesn’t want to leave their abuser, as you must be careful not to discourage their decision.”
Guinta-Bates says that many victims of dating violence typically want to stay in the relationship and try to justify the abuser’s actions.
“An average person being abused will go back to their abuser seven times, as they feel like they have to prove to themselves that it’s a real terrible situation,” Guinta-Bates said. “Sometimes, there’s just nothing you can do for that person and you just have to hope they eventually seek your help when they’re ready.”
Guinta-Bates says that the Women’s Center is a great resource for people who are seeking more advice on how to help someone leave an abusive relationship. She explained how lucky SCSU is to have a Women’s Center on their campus, as most campuses are absent of their services.
Olsen elaborated on the lack of Women’s Centers on other campuses, as only 12 to 14 percent of college campuses have a designated trained advocate. There is usually an advocate that is part of health services for many campuses, but they typically do not require the same training that advocates at a Women’s Center do.
“So, what happens when there is no one to help victims of sexual assault on a college campus? Unfortunately, we’ve noticed that victims tend to simply go away and leave campus, without receiving the proper help they need.” Olsen said.
“I hope one day, every college will realize the importance of adding a Women’s Center to their campus, so that victims of gender violence will always have a place to turn to.”