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Relationship Violence Common in College

About 40% of Students Say They Were Victims of Violence by Someone They Know
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 8, 2008 -- More than four in 10 college students have been the victim of relationship violence by a partner, friend, or acquaintance, according to a new study.

"All forms of relationship violence are prevalent among male and female college students; almost half of the students had experienced relationship violence at some point in their lives, more than one-third had experienced violence before college and one-quarter had experienced violence during college," write researcher Christine M. Forke, MSN, CRNP, of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and colleagues in the July issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Researchers say the results suggest that relationship violence is prevalent on college campuses.

The researchers cite past studies that suggest factors affecting this risk may include less monitoring by parents, isolation in an unknown environment, and a desire for peer acceptance that can change behaviors.

Relationship Violence on Campus

In the study, researchers anonymously surveyed 910 undergraduates in 67 randomly selected classes at three urban college campuses.

The results showed 42% had been the victim of relationship violence by a partner, friend, or acquaintance either before or during college, and 17% had been the perpetrator.

Other findings include:

  • Women were more likely to be the victim of all forms of relationship violence (53% of women vs. 27% of men).
  • Rates of relationship violence were higher before college than during college.
  • More than half of relationship violence reported during college was related to a partner rather than a friend or acquaintance.
  • Emotional violence was the most common type of relationship violence reported before college (21%), while sexual and emotional violence were equally common during college (12%).
  • Men were more likely to perpetrate sexual violence while women were more likely to perpetrate physical violence.

Researchers say emotional abuse isn't often a focus of violence prevention programs, but it may predispose victims to other types of violence.

"Therefore, educational efforts focusing on healthy relationships should begin during childhood," write the researchers.

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