Editor’s Note: The girl profiled in this article wishes to remain anonymous. Her name has been changed.
Janice slowly walked down the street next to her boyfriend. This was it. She was finally going to end their three month relationship filled with anger, control, manipulation, and revenge. She had tried this multiple times before, but he hadn’t listened or cared.
He turned to her and asked if she was going to break up with him. Janice said yes, and he exploded. He screamed at her and pushed her away. Then he immediately started to comfort Janice. Janice just stood there, terrified.
Janice’s story is more common than people think, but victims of intimate partner violence don’t often share their stories. In Janice’s case, it was a mixture of fear, shame, and depression that stopped her from sharing. “I can’t even talk to my therapist about it,” Janice said.
When Janice met her ex-boyfriend she was in a bad place. She is a survivor of sexual assault, and at the time she was depressed and full of self hatred. She was hesitant to start a relationship, but she started dating anyway.
During the relationship, her abuser exercised more and more control over her life. One time, when Janice went to hang out with one of her male friends, her abuser texted her. When Janice didn’t immediately text him back, the abuser got angry. Janice remembers their entire relationship as nothing but them fighting and him controlling her.
The boyfriend also sexually manipulated Janice. He would coerce her into sex acts she was uncomfortable with and attempt to take advantage of her when she was under the influence.
Janice isn’t the only student at U-32 who has experienced abuse.
According to the Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), 13% of the 537 high school students at U-32 surveyed in 2017 have experienced sexual dating violence. That’s almost 70 students.
The YRBS also asked about physical dating violence. The question was, “During the past 12 months, how many times did someone you were dating or going out with physically hurt you on purpose? (Count such things as being hit, slammed into something, or injured with an object or weapon.)” Eight percent of high school students at U-32, or 43 students, have experienced physical dating violence.
The survey doesn’t account for other forms of intimate abuse like social abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, or technological abuse.
The U-32 Chronicle sent out a survey about students’ experiences with intimate partner violence.
One student described their partner threatening to end their relationship and break off contact if the student didn’t do what they wanted.
Another reported their ex verbally harassing them.
Yet another student reported attempting to break up with an abusive boyfriend. The boyfriend broke the student’s phone, physically attacked the student, slashed her bag with a knife, and chased her when she left. Eventually the police were called and took the boyfriend into custody.
Many students do not know where or how to access help. One resource is Circle. Located in Barre Vermont, Circle is a non-profit that helps survivors of domestic violence and intimate partner violence. Circle operates a 24/7 hotline, a shelter for women escaping abuse, a food shelf, and more. They don’t house men in the shelter, but they also provide services for them. Two staff members at Circle were willing to talk about their work, but asked that their names weren’t included for safety reasons.
The staff at Circle said that one of the biggest problems in Vermont is isolation. People are spread out and often live in the middle of nowhere. It can be hard to access help if you don’t have the internet, cell service, or a car to transport you.
The internet is also transforming intimate partner violence, especially among young people. Examples of technological abuse include having all of someone’s passwords, posting on their social media without their permission, endlessly requesting nude images of the person: pretty much any control exercised over someone using technology.
According to staff members at Circle, 2019 has already been a bad year for domestic violence. One of the many services they provide is filing Relief from Abuse orders. RFA’s are legal documents granted by the state, that say the recipient can’t be abused, and if the abuse continues, the abuser can face criminal charges. Usually they file 10 Relief From Abuse Orders per month, but this April alone they filed almost double that.
Meaghan Falby, one of the health teachers at U-32, said that during her 17 years as a mandatory reporter, she has only had to make three reports. She said that students usually don’t report actual violence to her, probably because they don’t want anyone to know, or they don’t want to get their abuser in trouble. Meg is a great resource for students who need to talk and have important questions about relationships and abuse.
Trauma, including intimate partner violence, can affect a student’s education. “You can take your education, you can take your learning objectives,” Meg said, “and you can throw them out the window.”
While intimate partner violence can really traumatize people, recovery is possible. Several months after the end of the relationship, Janice is doing a lot better. She has shared her experiences with close friends, and it’s really helped her. It’s taken a long time, but with the support of her mother and her friends, Janice is improving. Open communication has contributed to her recovery. Janice said, “I’m starting to really open up to people now.”
If you or anyone you know is experiencing intimate partner violence help is available.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: