Screening students for domestic violence

In May 2010, the nation was shocked at the news of 22-year-old Yeardley Love, a star University of Virginia women’s lacrosse player, found beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend George Huguely V. Huguely was charged with first-degree murder; prosecutors claimed Love died of blunt force trauma to the head and revealed a history of violent encounters between the two college students, including threatening emails and text messages, and at least one drunken rage where Huguely attacked Love.

Yeardley Love, a college senior, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend George Huguely, in a violent attack in her bedroom in May 2010.

Yeardley Love, a University of Virginia senior, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend George Huguely in May 2010 during a violent attack where he broke into her bedroom.

The case would highlight what victim advocates have been saying for years: domestic violence is a significant public health problem in the United States. What may come as more of a surprise is the fact that college-aged women are most at risk for intimate partner violence.

According to national research, 48 percent of college-aged students reported violence and of those, 39 percent reported more than one form of violence. The Centers for Disease Control says intimate partner violence results in an estimated 1,200 deaths and 2 million injuries among women annually. Additionally, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states gay and bisexual men experience abuse in intimate partner relationships at a rate of 2 in 5. For lesbians, they estimate 1 in 2 have or will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

These high rates is what led Licensed Clinical Social Worker Sharon Aaron, director of the Victim Empowerment Program (VEP), to collaborate with Dr. Saara Schwartz and Dr. Theresa Boyd of Student Health Services to call for training of FIU student health care professionals to screen students for intimate partner violence. Although national statistics indicate that 1 in 4 females and 1 in 6 males will experience intimate partner violence at some point in their lives, on average, less than 100 students at FIU seek services for interpartner violence each year. Aaron hopes that the screening will identify more students who are suffering in silence and could benefit from VEP services.

“There are opportunities for prevention and to interrupt current violent relationships,” Aaron said. “Even if a student wishes to remain with her partner, there are ways to help her recognize when a violent incident may occur and ways to avoid serious injury by safety planning that is tailored to her situation.