Story and Photos by Stephanie Hall | Contributing Writer
Along with Black History Month, February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Many teens say that they aren’t taught what an unhealthy relationship even looks like. The Office of Violence against Women hosted the Healthy Relationships fair at Middle Tennessee State University in the Student Union Gallery Room.
“Our intern, Abigail, this was her idea to bring all of our organizations together. We really wanted to focus on healthy relationships during the month of February,” said the OVW coordinator for MTSU, Danielle Ostrander.
OVW also wanted to promote their “The Power of One” organization, a program that encourages students to “address power-based violence through bystander intervention.”
“I’m hoping to encourage the resources that are in our community and on campus to make everybody knowledgeable that we do have resources for dating violence, sexual assault and domestic violence on campus,” Ostrander said.
The fair brought campus police, counseling services, and many other organizations that help students in unhealthy relationships find safety and receive help. One local organization was the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center.
“We provide a lot of services for sexual assault or domestic violence victims. We have order of protection. Documentation for assistance. We have attorneys, any type of counselors or therapists available onsite, and we have a shelter right next to campus. So, no one will know where you are if you’re in a domestic violence situation,” Claire Vanderworth, an intern at the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center said.
The DVSA center hopes to encourage students to reach out when they are in an unhealthy relationship.
“If you are in dire need. If you are in a difficult situation with a relationship, there’s always people available for you outside of the community and the community. And we are always providing (help),” Vanderworth said.
Sometimes when relationships become unhealthy, they also become dangerous. That’s where MTSU Police will intervene.
“Unfortunately, when they see us, things are really going bad and, and then trying to develop some sort of probable cause to arrest somebody that might have assault, whether it’d be sexually our domestic assault,” Detective Tommy Robertson, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault detective with the MTSU police, said.
The campus police work with many of the other services attending the fair. The goal is help students as much as they can.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for 25 years. I’ve really been impressed with the services that MTSU offers. I’ve lived in this community forever and I was not aware of it. But unfortunately, domestic violence, sex assault, acquaintance rapes are all too common. And what we try to do is get the message out, make people aware of that,” Robertson said.
When something like domestic violence or sexual assault happens on campus, the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance deals with it. These are called Title IX issues. They also deal with gender discrimination and harassment at any time.
“You can come into our office and talk to us about; we can talk about investigations just to console. We range very widely on how we can help you. So, if they end up in a relationship that is not healthy, they know where to go to receive help,” said equity specialist Brianna Owens, of the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance.
To help prevent relationships from becoming unhealthy, it’s important to understand healthy relationship tactics. Throughout the fair, cards were scattered around with helpful advice for students.
For healthy relationships, they recommend communicating and respecting each other’s boundaries. Pay attention to their needs and don’t belittle their feelings. And most importantly, respecting consent from one another.
“Our main thing we really want to promote consent… because a lot of people will, as they become more sexually active, you know, it has to be a yes or it’s an automatic no. There’s a lot of different ways to (talk) about that. So, we’ve got what it is, what it looks like. If you kind of slowly start to realize that this might have been consensual, we’ve got contact information, but like the dating violence, you can kind of get the help and support that you need,” said MTSU student Bailey Eshelman.
They also offered lots of cool swag, such as stickers, buttons, condoms, hand sanitizers, and key chains.
The Healthy Relationships fair’s goal is to educate students about what to look for and what resources they can use when they find themselves in an unhealthy relationship.
To contact Lifestyles Editor Ethan Pickering, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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