Intimate partner violence can have devastating psychological, social, and physical consequences. Young women who are involved with violent and aggressive partners are at increased risk for substance abuse, low self-worth, anxiety, depression, and physical harm. The stress that results from physical abuse can also negatively impact academic performance and social relationships. Estimates suggest that more than 20% of college students have experienced a violent romantic relationship. To better understand the frequency and persistency of violence within romantic relationships, Catherine Kaukinen of the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado recently led a study examining the violent perpetration and victimization experienced by college women in committed relationships.
Kaukinen gathered data from 546 female college students who were part of a larger study that focused on violent relationships. The women answered a survey that included over 160 questions relating to attitudes about violence and dating, violent family histories, and factors that increase the risk for violence within a relationship. The results of the survey revealed that the majority of women were not currently experiencing violence in their relationships. However, for those that were, the violence was mutual. Specifically, Kaukinen discovered that the women who reported the highest levels of victimization were also the most likely to commit violent acts toward their partners.
There were also some surprising findings from the survey. One such finding showed that women were more likely to engage in violent behaviors than their partners in relationships with bidirectional violence. Additionally, these same women were the recipients of violence less often than they were the initiators. This suggests that their violent behaviors were not always responses or defenses to victimization. Although the violence the women inflict may produce less physical harm than the violence inflicted by men, it no less problematic. Kaukinen also found that women involved with nonviolent men were less likely to exhibit violent behaviors than those involved with men who perpetrate violence. College campuses strive to address the dilemma of violent dating behavior, but these findings clearly point to the need for measures that focus on the behaviors of both men and women. Kaukinen added, “The high prevalence estimates in this study for women establish the need for gender neutral prevention, educational, and intervention activities.”
Kaukinen, C., Gover, A. R., Hartman, J. L. (2012). College women’s experiences of dating violence in casual and exclusive relationships. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 37.7, 146-162.
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