Mar 022009
Authors: Emily Johnson

Nearly one of every four women experience domestic violence during their lifetime. The same statistic applies to the number of college women raped each year.

But one university official says relationship violence does not always occur in the physical but also emotionally.

Kathryn Woods, an assistant director with Women’s Programs and Studies, told students Monday night in the workshop “Understanding Relationship Violence” that non-physical violence in relationships is just as important as the physical.

“Relationship violence is not just physical,” Woods said. “Non-physical violence is very important too.”

The workshop explained to students what relationship violence looks like, the warning signs of an abusive relationship and how to help someone involved in abusive situations.

Examples of non-physical violence include coercion, intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation and threats, Woods said, adding, “It’s all about power and control when it comes to relationship violence.”

The presentation outlined some warning signs of an abusive relationship, including verbal abuse and pressure tactics like “guilt-tripping” and threatening or withholding money.

These behaviors, Woods said, can lead to sexual violence, physical abuse and even the use of weapons, adding that these behaviors can take a long time to develop.

“(Relationship violence) usually doesn’t happen overnight either,” Woods said. “It’s a pattern of behavior that escalates in little steps.”

According to the presentation, violent incidents are committed by someone the victim knows 85 percent of the time.

“Considering these statistics, it’s not a surprise that someone we know may be involved in some sort of relationship abuse,” Woods said.

Rianne Matthews, a freshman music therapy major, said though she doesn’t necessarily see a lot of relationship abuse on campus, she knows the issue is one of extreme prominence.

“I had a friend in high school who as in an abusive relationship,” Matthews said. “I didn’t really know what to do.”

While Woods said it is natural to want to intervene immediately in an abusive relationship, she warned of how important it is for the victim to feel like they are in control of their choices and situation.

“One of the things the survivor lacked most was control. The most helpful thing a support person can do is not (tell) them what to do but giving them their control back and (support) the decisions they make about their situation,” Woods said.

Matthews agreed, saying that presentation “helped (her) to understand the difficult aspects of this kind of relationship, like getting out of it.”

Woods explained that victims of an abusive relationship often love their attackers and fear losing the positive aspects of their relationship.

“There is just as much to lose in leaving an abusive relationship than there is in staying,” Woods said.

Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement headed the presentation with the Women’s Programs and Studies department, who work specifically for causes like relationship abuse, along with helping students with legal, medical, academic, emotional and campus discipline situations.

Woods advised to visit her department “first” in order to receive help that is specifically tailored to the victim.

“We know all the resources,” Woods said.

Staff writer Emily Johnson can be reached at

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