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What if our idea of healthy relationships needs to be reevaluated?

Efforts to raise awareness of partner violence continues to branch out across Bloomsburg’s campus. Compelling, reported abuse statistics from the National Domestic Violence Hotline states that 35% women and 28.5% men in the US, “experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.”

This kind of abuse has been reported by about 50% of the population, which has justified a valid investigation into the frequency of unreported cases and more subtle kinds of manipulation. Many victims get stuck in a self-blame cycle as a result of being psychologically manipulated in a way that takes advantage of social blind spots. It is a form of brainwashing while they slip through the proverbial cracks in society.  

Director of Commonwealth University Police, Leo V. Sokoloski said, “I don’t believe anyone ever enters into a relationship thinking they will be treated poorly.” Adding onto police director’s thoughts, Monica Johnson, the Counselor and Director of the Women’s and LGBTQA Resource Centers, said “often people might not realize it’s happening, they might just think that it’s physical abuse, but we know that it’s mental and emotional, financial.”

Johnson listed ways that may not be in the forefront of our minds when we think of abuse such as but not limited to keeping people from friends and family, forbidding a friend or partner from pursuing opportunities and even controlling behavior.

To learn more about various forms of abuse, go to the Bloomsburg University Women’s Resource Center website and select “relationship violence.” Along with a 24/7 hotline for confidential support, information, and help with safety planning to escape dangerous situations, the National Domestic Violence Hotline also offers insights and tools, such as the Power and Control Wheel.

On campus, resources are available. Meredith Norris, who is the graduate student intern for the Dean of Students office located on the main floor of the Student Center on campus. There is a sign at the front desk stating:

“When students face challenges and obstacles that may prevent them from their academic pursuits, the Office of the Dean of Students can help! When unexpected life events occur and you are in need of some assistance, support, someone to talk to or just someone to listen contact Office of the Dean of Students.”

During conversation about the details of the sign, Norris gave a picturesque idea referring to this facility as a “big umbrella office.” She goes into more detail on the function of the Dean of Students office, emphasizing how they determine the requirements of the students and cater to them appropriately.

For example, they lead student to tutoring services or put them in touch with the Success Center if they need help with their academic work. In addition, they guide those in need access to the food pantry and offer services for counseling to victims of domestic abuse. “In this building alone, there are over a dozen offices that we can refer students to,” Norris said.

Additional resources are accessible to students, including Title IX, overseen by Jennifer Raup in Elwell, addressing sexual assault, dating violence, and various forms of support. Johnson is situated in the Kehr Union, opposite The Commons. The Columbia County District Attorney’s office in Bloomsburg, PA, was also referenced.

Sokoloski highlighted the education of BUPD in domestic violence, guiding victims to “necessary resources, medically, emotionally & legally.” He further emphasized the Bloomsburg campus’s commitment to promoting gender equality and fostering shared respect vital for healthy relationships.

Reducing relationship violence requires prevention, education, and awareness. The Bloomsburg campus is committed to creating a secure atmosphere that supports wholesome relationships long after graduation. Johnson described how, at an event last month, the women’s centers on campus and in the town collaborated to explore “relationship red flags and what are good signs and what are sort of like beige flags.”

In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, a speaker will be discussing her own experience. For informal social and educational programs, follow $U_WRC on Instagram. Johnson emphasizes “not blaming yourself” when advising students in abusive relationships to confide in a trusted person for assistance and resource access. People of any gender are welcome at the Women’s Resource Center.

The Bloomsburg campus police department employs three simultaneous strategies to ensure campus safety: protect, prevent, and educate. Protect involves deterring crime through marked police vehicles, uniformed officers patrolling on foot and by car, managing emergency calls, and engaging with the community. Prevention tactics include proactive community outreach, crime analysis, environmental design analysis, collaboration with professional organizations, strategic placement of CCTV cameras and blue light call boxes, and ensuring proper campus lighting.

Proactive policing also means to “engage with students to build trust, be transparent, listen to student concerns,” shares Sokoloski.

The department offers walking escorts for students seeking extra security. Additionally, Sokoloski, a representative, reviews campus calls for service to identify and swiftly address trends and issues. Finally, the department educates students through engagement with student groups and institutions, covering various topics including spring break safety. For more information on educational programs and safety measures, students can contact the Bloomsburg campus Police Department.

For students aspiring to cultivate a safe and approachable demeanor, there are essential steps to follow. The initial step involves refraining from passing judgment. Monica Johnson addresses those puzzled by why a victim might not simply leave an abusive situation, enlightening them that it typically takes “six to nine tries for somebody to leave,” emphasizing that this doesn’t signify failure. Both victims and those aiding them must grasp this concept. Victims should not perceive themselves as failures.

Johnson advocates for students to establish healthy boundaries. If these boundaries are disregarded despite attempts to communicate with the individual, the next step is to confide in a trusted person who can direct them to appropriate resources. Through it all Johnson empowers victims to “listen to your gut.”

The Jeanne Cleary Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act discloses a surprising climb from 2020-2022 in the stalking of women. There is on-campus reporting of four cases in 2020-5 cases in 2021, and 7 cases in 2022. The off-campus statistics were 2020- 4 cases, 2021- 5 cases, and 2022-1 case.

As for domestic violence, on-campus statistics in were 2020-3 cases, 2021-2 cases and 2022-1 case. The same statistics show for off-campus in those years. We should question why there are such low statistics. Perhaps some are holding back reporting for various reasons.  

Be safe, informed, and work hard on yourself to further the effort against oppression. Education, kindness, boundary setting and respecting other’s boundaries are all key to healthy relationships. All ethnic groups, sex, and disabled persons’ matter. We are human beings. Time for a change. 

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