Opinion: Digital abuse and stalking are some of the most difficult to address
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is the time to discuss the prevalence of abuse on college campuses
This Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I am highlighting specific types of abuse that are either unique to college campuses, such as financial abuse, or types of abuse that are more prevalent on college campuses, such as digital abuse, financial abuse and stalking.
This week, I explore both academic and financial abuse, what they look like and what their effects are.
As digital natives, technology influences nearly every aspect of our lives, especially as students. Abusive partners will often take advantage of this.
Similar to academic abuse, using a victim’s login info to see their grades, bank accounts, emails, messages, and social media without their permission is a form of digital abuse. Posting on their behalf from their accounts without consent is as well.
With the rise of Snap Maps, dating apps with location trackers, and other ways to monitor location, stalking a partner via technology is easier and more accessible than ever.
Social media and access to the internet is now an integral part of being a student. Asking victims to surrender these important digital social networks is isolating and can be unhelpful. And for tech-savvy abusers, simply suggesting a change in password may be insufficient.
College students are much more likely than the general public to be stalked. Stalking is defined as repeated harassment with the goal of terrorizing the victim. For stalkers, it is incredibly easy to know where their victim is at all times. WIth regular classes, extracurriculars, and resources all located in the same places on campus, figuring out someone’s routine isn’t hard. When both the perpetrator and the victim are students on the same campus, it’s not surprising to see this trend.
Examples of stalking on college campuses include:
Showing up to a victims classes, dorm room, or other activity unannounced. It can include leaving ‘gifts’ for the victim to find, breaking into their dorm room and leaving, and cyber-stalking their victims.
Like all forms of abuse, neither digital abuse nor stalking is the victim’s fault.
People who work to combat domestic abuse will usually recommend creating a safety plan for when abuse occurs or when trying to leave the abusive relationship or situation. These plans should be tailored to each person, but the components will generally be the same. For college students, there are some important tips to remember from the Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness.
Here are some steps I can take to protect myself on campus:
“I can tell my Resident Assistant, Peer Health Educator, or another residential staff person about my situation.”
“I can ride/walk with to and from class. I can ride/walk with ___ to and from activities.”
“If my partner has any classes with me, I can talk to (my professor or TA) and tell them about my situation.”
“I can talk to my Resident Fellow, Resident Dean or Academic Advisor about changing classes or sections, or arranging extensions, incompletes or withdrawals. The name and contact information of someone I can talk to is.”
This is not an exhaustive list of forms of abuse that college students may face. All students are at risk of all forms of abuse. The above list is simply a way to highlight some of the kinds of abuse that are either exclusive to universities or are more challenging to understanding and ending.
If you are being abused or know someone who is being abused, OASIS AU: Office of Advocacy Services for Interpersonal and Sexual Violence is available for consultation Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.