Working to raise awareness during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a recent Healthy Relationships Survey was conducted within the Southern Oregon University community. This survey was created to gather data and raise awareness for students to both find out about and express experiences of relationship violence and abuse.
“The numbers of young people who have suffered from relationship abuse is simply staggering,” says Belinda Sauer, creator of the survey. She notes that most surveys cite somewhere between 20-30% of college students as having suffered some form of physical or emotional abuse from a partner.
The survey Sauer designed was intended to ask questions that would be comfortable for students to answer, but also informative to both respondents and the survey takers. By answering truthfully, students could gauge at what level of abuse their relationship was actually at, sometimes yielding surprising results. Individuals can be unaware of how dangerous their relationship is if they do not communicate with others or educate themselves on what actions are considered abusive.
“The more we talk about something, the less of a closet issue it becomes,” says Sauer. People who have been in an abusive relationship can then know they are not alone, and that there is a support system looking out for them.
Sauer says the best places a student can go if he or she has experienced an abusive relationship is the Student Health and Wellness Center or the Women’s Resource Center. These locations offer one-on-one counselors as well as information about such abusive relationships.
Sauer hopes her survey and ones like it can help students to realize they are not alone, and that there are many people who care about them.
“This issue cuts across all boundaries of gender, race, and sexual orientation and so should be combated by a wide spectrum of groups,” Sauer says. She hopes to make a difference both on campus and in the wider community by getting students aware and challenging the SOU administration to do more to highlight the issue, especially in this Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Sauer will be presenting her findings at SOAR this spring and sees herself doing more work like this survey in coming months and years.
“Certainly I hope to make a difference, to open peoples’ eyes to the reality of this situation, and also to help students learn how to deal with these issues,” said Sauer. SOAR presentations, including Sauer’s, will take place between May 12 and May 16.