Counseling Center to host support group for unhealthy relationships

April 9, 2012

April Wefler
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Whether it’s a friend, coworker or even ourselves, we likely know at least one person who has suffered at the hands of an abuser. In fact, one in three college students will experience some type of abuse in their relationship.

The prevalence of abuse in college relationships has led the Counseling Center to start a support group for students in March.

Women in college are especially at risk of being in abusive relationships. Break the Cycle: Empowering Youth to End Domestic Violence ( said that in September 2011, 43 percent of college women reported that they experienced violent or abusive dating behaviors.

Carrie Horner, student violence prevention coordinator, said that the abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual or psychological. “Psychological is a lot more intrinsic than emotional abuse, but they do overlap,” said Horner.

Even though emotional abuse may appear subtler than a black eye, its effects are just as damaging; it is used to lower a person’s sense of self, self-worth and power.

The website, There is Life After Abuse ( compared emotional abuse to brainwashing.

Life After Abuse also noted that emotional abuse is any behavior that is designed to control another person through the use of fear, humiliation and verbal or physical assaults.

Not only that, but emotional abuse can be dangerous if left untreated because it is a factor in mental disorders that could be developed later.

The Counseling Center’s support group will address the risks of unhealthy relationships and allow students to discuss their concerns in a safe, supportive atmosphere.

Kerry Peterson, Beth-El psychiatric nurse practitioner, and Susan Swank, Beth-El staff psychologist, will lead the group.

“They’re support groups for educational purposes, so we’re going to be teaching some women who have been in abusive relationships the warning signs,” said Horner.

She also mentioned that the group will teach women about how to get help and how to cope in an abusive relationship.

The group is primarily for women, but the Counseling Center is also reaching out to men. If there’s a demand for a support group for men, one will be created.

“We want to keep the sexes separate,” said Horner.

If people are scared to attend the meetings, she said it’s up to them to attend. “At the end of the day, it’s definitely their choice.”

The location and time of the meetings are undisclosed for safety reasons. If a student is interested in attending, he or she can contact the Counseling Center at 255-3265.