According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline 38 percent of college students say they would not know how to get help if they ever found themselves being abused by an intimate partner. UWG is helping combat this statistic with programs offered through Health Services.
 
     Jill Hendricks, Associate Director of Health Services, coordinates the Advocacy Services offered by UWG, which serves students who have been impacted by domestic violence situations.
 
     “There are two places on campus a student can go and seek services confidentially; one is the counseling center, and the other one is the Health Center,” said Hendricks. “When students access care there, [the student] is in charge, and we guide them through their rights and connect them with the resources they want.”
 
     The departments assist victims in learning their legal rights and creating safety plans.
 
     “Safety planning varies from case to case, but it’s basically us making sure we have offered [the victim] every resource available,” said Hendricks. “We will have them download the LiveSafe app, we make sure they have programmed police contact information in their phone and we will talk to them about the possibility of getting a temporary protective order against someone.”
 
     UWG also has a Care Team which assists in these cases. The Care Team is an interdisciplinary board, consisting of members from campus police, housing and the Dean of Students.
 
     “When we have cases, [we] cannot reveal confidential information, but we can [explain the situation]… and have brainstorming sessions there to try to think of other ways to support the person.”
 
     Some of these methods may be relocating a student into a different apartment or residence hall, changing their course schedule and helping the student temporarily withdraw from the university. Whatever the method, it is ensured that confidentiality is kept and the will of the victim is followed.
 
     It is not as simple as just reporting the incident, however. There are a lot of psychological preparations that a victim must take before they are ready to report and leave their abuser.
 
     “This is a process, not an event,” said Hendricks. “During that process, the victim loses that sense of self. They lose a lot of their friends, they often lose relationships with family member. They become isolated. They don’t know what resources are out there and the person that is controlling them has more power- in their eyes, they really see that person as more powerful. It’s a journey, to develop that autonomy again, do develop the strength and it takes tremendous courage to move away from relationships that have become controlling.
 
     “Remember, the person that is hurting the individual is someone they’ve nurtured, someone they’ve loved, someone they’ve tried to support and you can’t flick those feeling off,” Hendricks continued. “Most people I meet are initially at least in a stage of self blame. It’s a journey. Counseling can be so helpful. We have one counselor in our counseling center [and] 100 percent of her time is to serve victims of violence. We’ve got tremendous resources.”
 
     Hendricks suggests being patient with the victim, but also staying cautious. Many victims do not realize the amount of danger they are in, so it is important that if imminent danger is suspected that the authorities are contacted immediately. Although it is a necessary step, leaving can be the most dangerous step in the process.
 
     “In a violent relationship, the anxiety is going to go up and the dominant partner will be more likely to hurt this individual,” said Henricks. “We are very careful about guiding someone, and if a student has a friend in a violent relationship, be very careful about giving advice.”
 
     Hendricks suggests finding resources for the victim and leaving them with them in a safe manner.
 
     “If you are trying to get someone to separate from a violent partner, be careful with how you try to send them information,” said Hendricks. “Their abuser may be monitoring their computer, their phone, their GPS… we have to be very careful with how we deliver information as not to elevate their risk.”
 
     Hendricks says there are many ways for students to help their friends and loved ones out of a violent situation, but it is important for them to know their boundaries to help keep themselves and others safe.
 
     “We have a 24 hour crisis line,” said Hendricks. “if they want to talk to someone about the process of getting help or if they want to talk about their options, we are trained to guide them and get them the resources of their choice.
 
      “If you reach a point and you realize that they are in danger and they can not see it, there are several things students can do,” continued Hendricks. “One, they can go to our website, UWGCares, and make an anonymous referral. One of the advocates would then reach out to that student and let them know someone cared enough that they contacted us and asked us to reach out and offer resources. They can call the advocates themselves and ask how they can be supportive of their friend.”
 
      Domestic violence is a topic that makes many uncomfortable to discuss. It is important to remember that violence among intimate partners is a serious offense, and that UWG has services available to help its students. If you or someone you know are experiencing domestic violence, please contact UWG’s 24 hour domestic violence hotline at (678) 839 – 6452, or make an anonymous report at www.westga.edu/UWGCares.

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