Thirty-eight percent of them are date-rape victims. Twenty-two percent of them have experienced physical violence in dating relationships. And annually, 100 of them look to the MSU Safe Place for advice and shelter. They are college-age women, and they defy the false belief that only married couples experience domestic violence. In fact, women ages 16 to 24 experience the highest per-capita rate of intimate partner violence, according to statistics released by the United States Department of Justice.
Few students seem to know the prominence of domestic violence on college campus. “I don’t think it’s really a huge issue,” psychology sophomore Georgia Stamatopoulos said. She, like most students, knows nothing about Safe Place. The MSU Safe Place celebrated its ten-year anniversary this year and is still one of the only campus centers for domestic violence in the nation. This is shocking, especially since 40 percent of domestic violence incidents occur between young, unmarried couples.
Erica Schmittdiel, the advocacy coordinator for the Safe Place, noted the significance of an institution to help battered women. “It’s important that MSU has this resource, because the Lansing shelter is often really full.” Even if a victim is not in need of shelter, she can simply call the Safe Place and talk on the phone with a worker or volunteer to receive advice. She can also receive assistance with going to court, acquiring personal protection, and contacting professors to explain absences or low grades.
It is true that women aren’t the only victims of domestic violence, but they make up about 95% of them. Men occasionally show up at MSU Safe Place. “We are also a resource for the family and friends of a battering victim,” Schmittdiel said.
Even with such a reliable resource as this for victims and their loved ones, a constant awareness of possible abusive relationships is important for all students to have. According to the American Medical Association, one in three women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. And the telltale warning signs of a victim bear repeating: the appearance of “mystery bruises,” absences from class or work, sudden personality changes, self blame and the blaming of others, and low self-esteem. “It’s present everywhere,” psychology sophomore Kenya Talton said, “and I think it happens to college women more than people realize.”
Unfortunately, Talton is right, and all students should be aware of potentially abusive situations, for both themselves and for loved ones. Domestic violence among college students should not be ignored, and help is available.
If you or someone you know is suffering from intimate partner violence, contact the MSU Safe Place’s 24-hour crisis line at (517) 372-5572. Advocacy services can be reached at (517) 355-1100.

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