College Students & Dating Violence
Maggie, as any other new college student, started a new phase in her life when she enrolled in her freshman year at Kalamazoo College in the fall of 1998. She was not far from home and kept in touch, especially with her mother, Martha. But she was on her own – free to come and go as she chose, meet and hang out with whom she chose, at the place and time she chose. We talked to her, encouraged her and reflected to each other that we were satisfied and proud of how she was conducting her life and learning.
But she met someone in January of her first year, who did not have the same foundation of respectful interaction and trust that she had. And as we now know, this is typical in abusive relationships. It didn’t start out that way and it was just like Maggie to try to talk with him and bring him around to her sensibility in the relationship. That always worked before. Her new relationship, first away from home, was interesting and fun with no sense of danger at all. He was one of the group, but different.
The relationship grew quickly,as did his need for total commitment from her within the first weeks. She told us he was immature and she was going to end the relationship. She wanted to let him down easy – what she thought we wanted to hear, most likely. But on a campus, especially one so small as K College, it was impossible to not see each other everywhere, which he made a point of doing.
Her friends saw her less and others stayed away when they were together – he had a look which kept others at bay, especially other males. Everyone was trying to get along, and respect their relationship. The arguments or rude comments, which others heard or saw them exchange were part of their relationship – “Everyone does that,” was the reasoning. Just how they interact. No one saw physical abuse so it wasn’t abuse in their minds.
We did not know of the verbal and emotional abuse occurring, but we also saw no signs of any physical abuse and frankly the possibility of it never entered our thoughts. She had broken up and moved on. Now, in hindsight, we know that can be the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship for the target of the abuse.
When Maggie returned to campus for her sophomore year, she returned with purpose. The relationship was emphatically over, she was moving on, changing her major to law, with talk of finding her path to a life of service, helping others in need. He came back to school, in academic crisis, determined to pick up his relationship with Maggie – she couldn’t just “not love” him any more. When that twisted logic, and the old way of intimidating Maggie into giving him another chance failed, he decided to take his life, and somewhere along the way in his despondency, he also chose to take her life.
From October 1999, the week after Maggie died, given out at a K College gathering which we and many of her friends, and his, attended in our sorrow. The list was compiled for the gathering by Gail Griffin. Seeing this list – we all realized what we had failed to see before October 18.
Handout: Warning signs of Dating Abuse
Since Maggie died, we have become aware, through discussions with college students and their parents and others, of the epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses in the US. In spite of protests and denials by some, especially men and men in specific fraternities, it is a widespread problem for college women.
Featuring the My Plan/Risk Assessment App created by the Foundation
OneLove Escalation workshop video for college campus presentations.