By Jess Hoogendoorn
Although students may be unaware that domestic violence can occur on a college campus, there are resources available at Rider University for students who are in distress.
Domestic violence is defined under New Jersey state law as something that happens to someone 18 years of age or older.
The person committing the violence may be a current or former spouse, or a current or former household member.
Domestic violence can also apply to people in former or current dating relationships regardless of age. Students on college campuses can even experience domestic violence from their roommates, who fall under the classification of former or current households, according to Vickie Weaver, director of Public Safety.
“Domestic violence is more prevalent than people are aware,” said Patricia Hart, executive director of Womanspace, an organization that assists victims of domestic violence. “Students don’t know that they can get protection under the law. They are entitled to protection.”
Indications of domestic abuse include beatings or physical attacks, threats that make a person fear for his or her life, damage to personal property, repeated verbal humiliation and attacks, among other things. They are defined under New Jersey state law.
Students who are experiencing domestic violence or other forms of abuse are able to seek assistance at a variety of resources on and off campus. They can access on campus resources such as the Counseling Center, campus ministries, Student Health Center, Residence Life, Dean of Students, Public Safety, and any faculty and staff member that a student feels comfortable speaking with, said Weaver. Weaver also mentioned off-campus resources such as the police, local ministries and Womanspace.
“We certainly want the Rider community to know that there are different resources where one can go if he or she is in an abusive relationship, or knows somebody that is in an abusive relationship,” said Weaver.
The Counseling Center works with students to assess situations and come up with appropriate treatments. The first and foremost concern is the physical and mental safety of the student, said Marty. The Counseling Center works with Public Safety as well as Womanspace in cases of domestic violence.
“We want the community to know that we are committed to their safety on campus, or even if they are experiencing problems off campus, we can put them in contact with a resource they feel comfortable with,” said Weaver.
If Public Safety is faced with a domestic violence situation, it will turn the case over to the police and provide any necessary assistance, said Weaver.