Examining Intimate Partner Violence at Grinnell

emily ricker

rickerem@grinnell.edu

If you have seen the posters up around campus, you may be familiar with the statistic: one in eight Grinnell students have experienced some form of intimate partner violence or abuse. On Tuesday night, Oct. 27, students, staff and professionals gathered in Loose Lounge to discuss intimate partner violence and abuse at Grinnell.

This statistic comes from the Sexual Climate Survey the College administered last year. Jen-Ai Notman ’16 formulated and analyzed the results of the survey as part of a summer MAP project.

That statistic was found by adding up the percentages of students who had reported experiencing certain things, such as verbally controlling behaviors and physical abuse from a partner.

“If you just simply ask people ‘have you been in an abusive relationship?’ [the percentage] would be lower,” said Assistant Chaplain and Rabbi Rob Cabelli. “People don’t always know or aren’t willing to, at that point, say [they’re in an abusive relationship.]”

The survey looked specifically at dating violence, defining dating as any type of ongoing intimacy with a partner— emotional, sexual, physical or otherwise. When all those percentages are added up, approximately one in eight Grinnell students have gone through intimate partner violence or abuse.

Tuesday’s meeting was aimed at developing strategies to start tackling this problem, which Cabelli believes is one of the most important issues the campus faces.

“I think it’s incredibly important from an opportunity perspective, from an equality perspective, from a social justice perspective,” Cabelli said.

The meeting consisted of an overview of the data collected from the Sexual Climate Survey and a session led by Grinnell Advocates about how to best help friends experiencing forms of intimate partner violence or abuse.

Advocates as well as the Crisis Intervention Services professionals in attendance stressed the importance of “meeting someone where they’re at.” Doing this requires not imposing judgment and being understanding of the friend’s perspective and wishes. For example, advocates in attendance explained that it is better to resist telling a friend they need to leave their partner and instead ask serious questions about how the situation makes them feel.

Cabelli suggested that when helping a friend, it’s best to acknowledge unhealthy aspects of the relationship rather than labeling it as unhealthy overall.

“Relationships that have unhealthy elements within them—maybe that’s a better way to put it,” Cabelli said.

Tuesday’s meeting stressed that these types of abuse happen everywhere, and Grinnell is no exception despite its focus on social justice and self-governance.

“The great diversity of the Grinnell student body [means] that we have many students coming from many different places of social conditioning,” Cabelli explained. Sometimes that diversity in social conditioning manifests in unhealthy treatment of others or unhealthy expectations of what relationships should look like.

The meeting concluded with a discussion of what can be done to ameliorate intimate partner violence at Grinnell.

“True prevention if you will—and that word is so loaded—really requires … empowering our students to engage with each other in ways that … will enable them to grow and develop in a relatively safe way without experiencing abuse,” Cabelli said.

The meeting included a discussion of resources that students can turn to if they or a friend ever experience intimate partner violence or abuse. Grinnell Advocates, Rabbi Rob and Deanna Shorb at the CRSSJ, the Title IX office, RLCs, SAs, SHACS counselors, Crisis Intervention Services and friends and family members can all be instrumental supports.

“We hope that more and more such programs will go on,” Cabelli said. “Not any single program can be conceived of remotely as solving a problem … rather they need to be seen as part of an ongoing deepening and elevation of our awareness and of the tools students have.”

NEWS-Domestic Violence Graphic