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Understanding Domestic Violence

Dating abuse. Dating violence. Abusive dating behaviors. There are many words that we use to describe domestic violence. Many people think that domestic violence is rare, or that it is not something that occurs in their age cohort, the truth is that domestic violence occurs among college students too. College students can find unexpectedly find themselves the victims of domestic abuse.

Abuse is not a one-size-fits-all term, as the behaviors do not necessarily fall into one box - nor do the potential remedies and protections. Here is a breakdown of some different types of domestic violence:

  • Physical abuse: You do not have to have a bruise or any other kind of mark for physical abuse to count as domestic violence. While punching, kicking and scratching do fall under this umbrella term, a partner grabbing your face, holding you to prevent you from leaving, or blocking your access to a door so that you cannot get away are also physically abusive behaviors that are defined as domestic violence by Colorado's laws.
  • Stalking: It is scary, but stalking is most common among people you know. In fact, three out of four people who have been stalked report knowing the person. Stalking can occur in person, or can happen through calling, texting, and/or social media
  • Emotional and verbal abuse: Even if there are no physical scars, words hurt. As with any type of abuse, emotional abuse is a control tactic. In Colorado, certain forms of verbal abuse are criminalized.
  • Financial abuse: If your partner does not let you control your own money, this is financial abuse. This also applies if your partner is taking your money without your consent.
  • Digital abuse: If your partner is using any type of technology to harass, bully or stalk you - this is digital abuse. An example would be your boyfriend telling you who you can and cannot be friends with on Facebook, or a girlfriend demanding to know your password to check your email.
  • Sexual abuse: Sexual assaults frequently occur in the context of relationships or between people who are dating or hooking up.

Getting help

All of these forms of dating abuse happen among college students. In fact, almost half of college women report experiencing some type of dating violence or abusive dating behaviors. While these statistics are focusing on women, many men are also in abusive relationships in college.

In Colorado, civil protection orders are available for the purposes of preventing assaults and threatened bodily harm, preventing domestic abuse, to prevent sexual assault or abuse, and to prevent stalking. Protection orders also are imposed in all criminal cases in which anyone is charged with crimes against another person, including in cases of domestic violence.

While it can feel overwhelming to file for an order of protection, especially if this is your first run in with the civil or criminal process, these orders can be literally life-saving and provide you with the peace of mind that is necessary to live your life and focus on enjoying - not fearing --- the college experience. And while your situation and life-experiences are uniquely yours, it is important to understand that you are not alone and that legal help is available.

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