The homicide of 22-year-old Gabby Petito has sparked a national discussion about domestic abuse and dating violence. According to the Partnership Against Dating Violence, “College-aged women … have the highest per capita rate of intimate partner violence.”
Benek Altayli has been the director of mental health services at the Wellness Center since 2008 and holds a doctorate in clinical psychology. She wants students to know that the Wellness Center “is the only confidential service office on campus for those students who may want to receive mental health support.”
According to Altayli, dating violence is “a pattern of coercive and abusive tactics employed by one person in a relationship to gain power and control over another person. It can take many forms, including physical violence, coercion, threats, intimidation, isolation, and emotional, sexual or economic abuse.”
“We offer Survivor’s Group specifically for those who have survived such a trauma. … We can offer individual trauma treatment if the student does not feel ready to address challenges in a group setting. If the post-traumatic symptoms necessitate medications … our students have access to specialized medication evaluations and get prescriptions,” Altayli said.
In addition to mental health services, the Wellness Center can also provide treatment for physical injuries and sexually transmitted infections (STI). The Wellness Center can make referrals for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) exams at Memorial Hospital and help students follow-up and understand their results, according to Altayli.
It is not always easy to determine if a relationship will become abusive because every relationship is different; however, there are certain behaviors to watch out for, according to Altayli. “Possessive and controlling behaviors usually develop and intensify over time. … One feature shared by most abusive relationships though is the need for power and control by the abusive partner,” she said.
Leaving an abusive relationship can be dangerous and any student involved in an abusive relationship who wants to leave should know how to safely escape. “It is important to have a detailed, realistic safety plan if the relationship violence includes physical or sexual violence. … If this is the case, it is also wise and highly recommended that someone professional … help guide this process and make the safety plan with you,” Altayli said.
Altayli continued, “If the abuse is emotional and there is no physical threat or violence, it may be sufficient to learn to be assertive, clear and consistent about communicating what you want and learn effective ways of interpersonal boundary-setting,”
If a student believes that one of their friends may be involved in an abusive relationship, Altayli provided ways to approach the situation. “It is important to always provide the invitation to help and support them but not to do anything that may feel like pressure or coercion … ask them how they would like you to help.”
“You can lend a supportive and empathetic ear, you can help them make decisions about where to start, you can accommodate them if they want to physically go to a resource, or be present when they make the call or write the email,” Altayli said.
Other resources that students should be aware of include: