When students experience intimate partner violence (IPV), they’re most likely to disclose it to their friends. Therefore, it’s critical that we give students the tools to support a friend who may be experiencing IPV. These four strategies can help.
1. Focus on strategies for intervening
Focus on ways students can help each other. Overemphasizing the warning signs of abuse risks sending the message to students that they must determine definitively whether they’re witnessing an abusive interaction as a prerequisite to helping. That said, it’s important that students have some familiarity with the signs of relationship abuse.
2. Train students to intervene early, subtly, and frequently
We want students to intervene when they witness obvious abuse and violence—but we don’t want them to hold off until they see that. We also want them to intervene much sooner and in much less severe situations: when they witness or experience casual disrespect, sexual pressure, or disregard for personal boundaries. Here’s why this works:
- Intervening subtly and frequently feels more doable than larger, one-time interventions. It’s what students already do as good friends: checking in, listening, showing support.
- Students are more likely to witness disrespectful behavior, like a belittling comment or low-level pressure, than they are to witness unmistakable abuse, like a sexual assault or physical battery.
3. Keep your examples diverse
Relationship abuse is difficult to address in part because of common misunderstandings about why and how abuse happens, and who it happens to. In workshops and other educational messaging, use stories featuring people of diverse genders, sexualities, races, and socioeconomic classes. If you use gender-neutral examples, be alert to whether students are “filling in” the missing information according to gender stereotypes.
4. Be prepared for students to disclose to you
When students disclose assault and abuse, it’s typically to friends. That said, students, or friends of students, experiencing intimate partner violence may turn to a faculty member, administrator, or trusted mentor for help accessing resources. The strategies in our article provide guidance for that conversation. In addition, familiarize yourself with the intimate partner violence resources on your campus and in your local community. Students aren’t always comfortable using campus-based resources, so it helps to have backups. Know your reporting obligations under Title IX to ensure that you and your students are aware of the limits of confidentiality.Get help or find out more
Trained advocates 24/7: National Domestic Violence Hotline
Help for deaf callers: National Domestic Violence Hotline
Video phone 1-855-812-1001
Hana Awwad and Evan Walker-Wells contributed to this article.
Melanie Boyd, PhD, assistant dean of student affairs, Yale University, Connecticut.
Casey Corcoran, MAT, program director, Futures Without Violence, California.
Dana Cuomo, PhD, coordinator of victim advocacy services, University of Washington.
Rachel Pain, PhD, professor, Department of Geography; co-director, Centre for Social Justice and Community Action; Durham University, UK.
Anderson, D. K., & Saunders, D. G. (2003). Leaving an abusive partner: An empirical review of predictors, the process of leaving, and psychological well-being. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 4(2), 163–191.
Barnett, O. W. (2000). Why battered women do not leave, part 1: External inhibiting factors within society. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 1(4), 343–372.
Barnett, O. W. (2001). Why battered women do not leave, part 2: External inhibiting factors—social support and internal inhibiting factors. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 2(1), 3–35.
Barrett, B. J., & St. Pierre, M. (2011). Variations in women’s help seeking in response to intimate partner violence: Findings from a Canadian population-based study. Violence Against Women, 17(1), 47–70.
Barter, C., McCarry, M., Berridge, D., & Evans, K. (2009, October). Partner exploitation and violence in teenage intimate relationships. NSPCC. Retrieved from https://www.nspcc.org.uk/globalassets/documents/research-reports/partner-exploitation-violence-teenage-intimate-relationships-report.pdf
Bell, K. M., & Naugle, A. E. (2005). Understanding stay/leave decisions in violent relationships: A behavior analytic approach. Behavior and Social Issues, 14, 21–45.
Bennice, J. A., & Resick, P. A. (2003). Marital rape: History, research, and practice. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 4(3), 228–246.
Beres, M. A. (2014). Rethinking the concept of consent for anti-sexual violence activism and education. Feminism and Psychology, 24(3), 373–389.
Beres, M. A. (2010). Sexual miscommunication? Untangling assumptions about sexual communication between casual sex partners. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 12(1), 1–14.
Bergen, R. K. (1996). Wife rape: Understanding the response of survivors and service provider. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Brieding, M. J., Smith, S. G., Basile, K. C., Walters, M, L., et al. (2014, September 5). Prevalence and characteristics of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence—National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, United States, 2011. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 63(SS08), 1–8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6308a1.htm?s_cid=ss6308a1_e
Burke, J. G., Gielen, A. C., McDonnell, K. A., O’Campo, P., et al. (2001). The process of ending abuse in intimate relationships: A qualitative exploration of the Transtheoretical Model. Violence Against Women, 7(10), 1144–1163.
Carmody, M., & Ovenden, G. (2013). Putting ethical sex into practice: Sexual negotiation, gender, and citizenship in the lives of young women and men. Journal of Youth Studies, 16(6), 792–807.
Casey, E. A., Querna, K., Masters, N. T., Beadnell, B., et al. (2016). Patterns of intimate partner violence and sexual risk behavior among young heterosexually active men. Journal of Sex Research, 53(2), 239–250.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2003). Costs of intimate partner violence against women in the United States. CDC, National Centers for Injury Prevention and Control: Atlanta, GA. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/ipvbook-a.pdf
Clark, S., & Hamby, S. (2011). Challenges and resources of survivors of domestic violence. [Presentation]. Retrieved from https://dspace.sewanee.edu/handle/11005/266
Crockett, E. (2017, January 10). Many mass shooters have a history of domestic violence. It’s time to pay attention. Vox. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/identities/2017/1/10/14213164/mass-shooters-gun-violence-domestic-violence
DeKeseredy, W., Rogness, M., & Schwartz, M. (2004). Separation/divorce sexual assault: The current state of social scientific knowledge. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 9, 675–691.
Edwards, K. M., Dardis, C. M., & Gidycz, C. A. (2012). Women’s disclosure of dating violence: A mixed methodological study. Feminism & Psychology, 22(4), 507–517.
Enander, V. (2011). Leaving Jekyll and Hyde: Emotion work in the context of intimate partner violence. Feminism & Psychology, 21(1), 29–48.
Goldenberg, T., Stephenson, R., Freeland, R., Finneran, C., et al. (2016). “Struggling to be the alpha”: Sources of tension and intimate partner violence in same-sex relationships between men. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 18(8), 875–889.
Humphreys, C., & Joseph, S. (2004). Domestic violence and the politics of trauma. Women’s Studies International Forum, 27, 559–570.
Kelly, T., & Stermac, L. (2012). Intimate partner sexual assault against women: Examining the impact and recommendations for clinical practice. Partner Abuse, 3(1), 107–122.
Lindgren, K. P., Parkhill, M. R., George, W. H., & Hendershot, C. S. (2008). Gender differences in perceptions of sexual intent: A qualitative review and integration. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32(4), 423–439.
Mabry, D. (2015, September 16). Seeking an end to cycles of abuse. Radio Rookies. WNYC. Retrieved from https://www.wnyc.org/story/seeking-end-cycles-abuse/
Mahlstedt, D., & Keeny, L. (1993). Female survivors of dating violence and their social networks. Feminism & Psychology, 3, 319–333.
McFarlane, J., & Malecha, A. (2005). Sexual assault among intimates: Frequency, consequences and treatments. Research report for US Department of Justice. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/211678.pdf
Miller, B., & Irvin, J. (2016). Invisible scars: Comparing the mental health of LGB and heterosexual intimate partner violence survivors. Journal of Homosexuality. doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2016.1242334
Montalvo-Liendo, N. (2009). Cross-cultural factors in disclosure of intimate partner violence: An integrated review. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 65(1), 20–34.
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (2015). Facts about domestic violence and sexual abuse. Retrieved from https://www.ncadv.org/files/Domestic%20Violence%20and%20Sexual%20Abuse%20NCADV.pdf
National Domestic Violence Hotline. (n.d.). Love is respect. Retrieved from https://www.loveisrespect.org/
National Domestic Violence Hotline. (2014, May 29). What is gaslighting? Retrieved from https://www.thehotline.org/2014/05/what-is-gaslighting/
O’Byrne, R., Hansen, S., & Rapley, M. (2008). ‘‘If a girl doesn’t say ‘no’. . .’’: Young men, rape and claims of “insufficient knowledge.” Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 18(3), 168–193.
O’Byrne, R., Rapley, M., & Hansen, S. (2006). “You couldn’t say ‘no,’ could you?”: Young men’s understandings of sexual refusal. Feminism & Psychology, 16(2), 133–154.
Orchowski, L. M., & Gidycz, C. A. (2015). Psychological consequences associated with positive and negative responses to disclosure of sexual assault among college women: A prospective study. Violence Against Women, 21(7), 803–823.
Rainy. (2015, September 16). Why do I stay? Radio Rookies. WNYC. Retrieved from https://www.wnyc.org/story/why-do-i-stay/
Rausch, M. A. (2016). Systemic acceptance of same-sex relationships and the impact on intimate partner violence among cisgender identified lesbian and queer individuals. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 11(3–4), 270–284.
Rennison, C. M. (2002). Rape and sexual assault: Reporting to police and medical attention, 1992–2000. Retrieved from https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rsarp00.pdf
Stith, S. M. (2006). Future directions in intimate partner violence prevention research. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 13(3–4), 229–244.
Taylor, L. R., & Gaskin-Laniyan, N. (n.d.). Sexual assault in abusive relationships. NIJ Journal, 256. Retrieved from https://www.defendyourself.org/documents/jr000256d-sexualAssault.pdf
Tina. (2015, January 25). When you’re the abuser. Represent. Retrieved from https://www.youthcomm.org/story/id/FCYU-2015-01-24.html
Tina. (2015, September 16). Living both sides of abuse, and choosing neither. Radio Rookies. WNYC. Retrieved from https://www.wnyc.org/story/living-both-sides/
Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (2000). Extent, nature, and consequences of intimate partner violence: Findings from the national violence against women survey. US Department of Justice. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/181867.pdf
van Schalkwyk, S., Boonzaier, F., & Gobodo-Madikizela, P. (2014). “Selves” in contradiction: Power and powerlessness in South African shelter residents’ narratives of leaving abusive heterosexual relationships. Feminism & Psychology, 24(3), 314–331.
WNYC. (2015, September 16). Where to find help. Retrieved from https://www.wnyc.org/story/where-find-help/
Woodyatt, C. R., & Stephenson, R. (2016). Emotional intimate partner violence experienced by men in same-sex relationships. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 18(10), 1137–1149.
Yale Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education Center. (n.d.). Sexual Misconduct—Intimate Partner Violence. Retrieved from https://sharecenter.yale.edu/information-about-sexual-misconduct/forms-sexual-violence/intimate-partner-violence