Relationship Violence on College Campuses

Benajil Rai / multimedia director

Rachel Vitello

Student Life Editor

43 percent of college women and 28 percent of college men report experiencing abusive or controlling behavior in relationships. College-aged women are also at three times greater risk than any other demographic for being in an abusive relationship, according to statistics provided by the Keene State College Sexual Assault and Violence Education (S.A.V.E.) Committee.

On Wednesday, Nov. 28, S.A.V.E. hosted a screening of the film Escalation. The screening was then followed by a guided discussion.

Escalation was produced by the OneLove Foundation. OneLove was founded by the parents of Yeardley Love, a 23 year old woman who was murdered by her abusive ex-boyfriend in 2010. In response to this attack on their daughter, OneLove creates workshops and short films that can be used for free by colleges to educate students on how to recognize and prevent domestic abuse.

This film depicts a couple from the beginning of their relationship to the end. The escalation, per the title, of how the relationship goes from seemingly normal to controlling and emotionally and physically abusive, is meant to show the viewers how to notice the early signs.  The signs of an unhealthy relationship that were depicted in Escalation included the boyfriend exhibiting intense, obsessive behavior, making his girlfriend nervous, isolating his girlfriend from her friends and controlling her posts on social media; among other signs.

The film is also meant to show how the friends of the couple did notice the signs of abuse, but never said anything. As a result, the girlfriend was murdered by her boyfriend. MVP Advisor Forrest Seymour said this is a significant reason why this film was chosen to be shown.

“We’re [S.A.V.E.] always looking for ways to help everyone recognize the signs and symptoms and to know what to do to help out. That’s what i really like about this film, it’s really designed not so much for the people in the relationship, but for the friends and people around them, to help us understand what it looks like and what we can do to help out,” Seymour said.

After the film, students who are involved with S.A.V.E. and Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) passed out multiple handouts from OneLove that provide ten signs of a healthy relationship, ten signs of an unhealthy relationship and resources for those who are either in an abusive relationship or know someone who is. The handouts acted as a guide for the discussion afterwards.

KSC junior Anna DePasquale said that after watching the film she learned more about how to detect when a relationship is abusive.

“It’s really easy to see a relationship like the one in the movie and be like ‘well it’s fine’, or ‘it’s just flawed, but that can actually be a red flag. I thought it was really realistic. All the signs we saw are actually happening for a lot of people,” DePasquale said. “I learned a lot about resources available and signs to look out for.”

While this film depicts a straight, white, middle class couple, Seymour and MVP would like to stress that abusive relationships can happen to anyone.

“Relationship violence shows up in all kinds of relationships. It’s not always men towards women, it’s women towards men, it’s men towards other men. It’s important for us to remember that these are issues that apply to all of us and we don’t want to get too narrow in our way of thinking about relationship violence,” Seymour said.

S.A.V.E. committee member Brianna Hankel said that relationship violence can be a sensitive topic for people to discuss, but it’s important to be supportive in helping people out of an abusive situation.

“It [relationship violence] can seem like a gray area a lot of the time to people. The important thing is to be a good friend and to be understanding when helping a friend or someone you know realize that they’re relationship is unhealthy,” Hankel said.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, visit the Sexual Violence Prevention and Intervention page on keene.edu for resources to seek help.

Rachel Vitello can be contacted at

rvitello@kscequinox.com.