Merryman House to educate on intimate violence

Violence is not always physical. Sometimes one person in a relationship can take over by designing class schedules, learning passwords or controlling their partner’s bank account.

Intimate violence is emotional, mental or physical abusive behavior that is exhibited in relationships through controlling a partner’s life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 43 percent of college women have experienced intimate violence, according to a 2011 poll on College Dating Violence and Abuse.

In order to address this, Murray State has collaborated with the Merryman House Domestic Crisis Center in Paducah, Ky., to create the Merryman House Campus Advocacy.

The advocacy strives to save, build and change the lives of college students, according to their mission statement.

Mary Jackson, director of out-reach services for Merryman House, said they educate students on what the make-up of a healthy relationship is.

“If you don’t know what a healthy relationship looks like, then you won’t know what an unhealthy relationship looks like,” she said.

Jackson said that in a healthy relationship, your partner should lift your spirts and make you feel good about yourself.

“If you leave feeling worse that when you arrived, you’re not in a healthy relationship,” she said.

Women between the ages of 16 and 24 are most at risk for being a victim of intimate violence, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

However, Jackson said intimate dating violence can begin as early as middle school.

“It’s shocking, but it’s true,” she said.

Jackson said the Merryman House is important because it cares for victims who would otherwise be left unprotected. The law can only protect victims who are married to, have a child with or live with their abuser. These people can file for emergency protective orders and later for domestic violence orders.

The emergency protective order is valid for 14 days. A domestic violence order is good for three years. The advocate does not provide legal assistance, but it does appear in court as moral support for the victim.

The services available at the advocacy are tailored to each individual case.

“We don’t have a cookie cutter program,” she said.

Jackson said college students are more vulnerable to abusive relationships because they are isolated from their family and other support groups.

“Everyone wants to fit in and feel like they are important to someone else,” she said.

Nearly 53 percent of domestic violence victims were abused by a current or former significant other, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Dana Sanderson, student from Mayfield, Ky., is an intern for the Merryman House Campus Advocacy. She said social media has made it easier for abusers to track the victim and show up uninvited.

Abusers are able to hack the victims’ accounts or make false accounts in order to remain in contact with the victim.

“This kind of abuse is definitely present on campus,” she said.

Sanderson said for victims to protect themselves and keep their privacy settings as strict as possible and to be aware of their online presence.

“On campus, what I see most often are students who don’t know how to help their friends,” Sanderson said.

A reported 52 percent of college women said they know a friend who has experienced dating violence, as found in the 2011 College Dating Violence and Abuse poll.

Sanderson said friends of victims should not shame or blame their friends for the situation that they are in. Rather they should express genuine concern and be supportive of the victim’s decisions.

“It is important for friends to understand how complicated abusive relationships are,” she said.

The advocacy of Merryman House is joining forces with Public Safety and Emergency Management for a presentation at Springer Residential College about intimate violence.

Erin Frolich, junior from Owensboro, Ky., said having the advocacy on campus would be a good resource for students who need it.

“I feel much safer at Murray State than I did at other universities,” she said.

Frolich said that the faculty at Murray State is dedicated to making the students aware of the resources that the University provides including the Women’s Center and Public Safety.

“We are trying our best to make our presence on campus known,” Jackson said. “Education is the key and that is what they are providing.”

Story by Mari-Alice Jasper, Staff writer