Counseling center offers aid to those in abusive relationships

While stereotypical relationships purported in movies and by the media paint pictures of perfect couples, some students know these depictions are far from accurate.

For some, relationships are anything but roses and chocolate-they are lived in fear of violence and abuse.

According to Voices Against Violence, a Web site started by students and professionals at the University of Texas to address issues of sexual and relationship violence, as many as 20 to 30 percent of college relationships have included incidents of abuse.

Abuse can come in many different forms, ranging from physical to mental and emotional to sexual.

“People might not always know if they are being abused in a relationship,” said Kris Nelson, a clinical social worker at the University Counseling Center. “Abuse is not always physical.”

A U junior majoring in political science, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed.

“I didn’t realize that my boyfriend was abusing me because at first he wasn’t physically hitting me, but he would make comments that were mentally abusive,” the student said.

These comments included calling her “stupid,” “worthless” and “a whore” when she would talk to other guys.

“It took a while before I realized, ‘Whoa.This isn’t the guy that he was at the beginning of our relationship.'”

While violence or abuse can occur any time during a relationship, 50 to 85 percent of violence takes place during the “serious dating phase” of a relationship.

About 80 percent of those who have been victims of abuse have continued to date their abuser.

The woman in this case continued to receive snide remarks, get slapped, pushed and grabbed by the hair for four more months before she stopped dating her abuser.

“The scariest part was letting go because I figured if he could snap that bad when I talked to another guy, think about how he would snap when I told him I wanted to leave him,” she said.

There are many signs that students who fear they may be in an abusive relationship can look for. These include, but are not limited to, slinging insults, getting angry or using belittling language, exhibiting a high level of jealousy and behaving in an erratic and bipolar fashion.

Another strong indicator of an abusive relationship is if one partner begins to make changes in his or her life so as to not make the other partner angry.

This can be anything from changing the way someone dresses to changing the friends they keep.

“It can be a cue if someone says, ‘Oh, he only hit me or pushed me because he was drunk. He’s not like that all the time.’Abuse is abuse, period. You still have to pay attention to those signs,” Nelson said.

The anonymous U junior agreed.

“I would tell my friends that I did something or said something that gave him the right to get pissed off. Also, I told them that I shouldn’t have ‘misbehaved’ while he was drinking or agitated,” the student said.

Nelson also said that gut feelings are important cues to follow.

“If you think you might have done something to anger your partner and the gut feeling that you get is fear, you need to ask yourself why. No one should have to experience that,” Nelson said.

The counseling center can help students who are in, or think they may be in, an abusive relationship and would like help dealing with it.

“If someone comes in to the Counseling Center, their conversation with the counselor will be confidential,” Nelson said. “We just want people to know that they can always come and talk to us.”

The University Counseling Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays.

For more information, please call the Counseling Center at 581-6826.

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