One in five students abused: Study

(CUP) – A study published over the summer by University of British Columbia’s School of Nursing professor Elizabeth
Saewyc has provided some grim results regarding the level of violence experienced by North American university students.
The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, suggests that nearly one in five students have been victims of violence in the past six months.
Students at participating universities were asked to fill out a short questionnaire when they visited their campus health clinics for anything from a runny nose to a prescription refill. It was found that
16 per cent of women and 17 per cent of men reported experiencing abuse in the past six months.
Although the researchers were surprised to find almost no difference between the percentage of men and women who reported abuse, the dissimilarities became more apparent when evaluating the type of abuse.
Nine per cent of men reported emotional abuse compared to 15 per cent of women, while nine per cent of men said they had experienced physical abuse compared to three per cent of women.
“It’s not what you would expect,” Saewyc said, referring to the narrow difference between men and women. “Constant ridicule, cutting people down, unreasonable jealousy, breaking your stuff, threats. That’s what the emotional violence is. When it comes to emotional violence, that’s a really repetitive one.”
The study determined that alcohol was clearly a factor and was one of the first to study the use of alcohol by victims. More than one third of the students said they had been drinking when the emotional abuse took place and more than half said they had been drinking when they experienced physical abuse.
“I think we’re doing a pretty good job teaching university students and high school students about the consequences of drinking and driving and the [alcoholrelated] harms that can happen in the long-term,” Saewyc said. “But we don’t necessarily make them aware that there could be immediate costs – not just getting in an accident, but actually, you are at risk of being assaulted, and that violence has a health cost for everyone.”
The study also examined who abuse was coming from. Nearly half of the emotional abuse reported and about 20 per cent of physical abuse was from an “intimate partner.” Although the research looked at both, intimate partner abuse towards men had not received much attention prior to the study. The study found that violence rarely occurred between strangers and was much more common between men and woman in romantic relationships.
“It makes it really clear that our students really need some more help in figuring out healthy relationships,” Saewyc said.
Although many universities have implemented security measures such as surveillance cameras to help keep students safe while they are on campus, Saewyc says the real danger isn’t until “you open that door at the end.”
“Part of the challenge of security measures is they’re great if you’re talking about stranger violence or a fight that erupts at a big party or bar brawl, but a fair amount of violence is among romantic partners or roommates. It’s taking place between two people behind closed doors and it’s not going to show up on video cameras.”

// Geoffrey Blain,
The Brock press (Brock University)

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