Diving into Wellness

A recurring column exploring various  statistics related to sexual wellness, mental health, and substance use at  Colorado College, brought to you in collaboration with the Wellness Resource Center.

By  SUSANNA PENFIELD

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October marks the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time dedicated to supporting and educating those affected by domestic and intimate partner violence, IPV, which refers to one partner’s use of power over another to control, harm, or intimidate. As a form of identity-based violence, IPV is informed by other systems of oppression, such as sexism and racism. Thus, it affects individuals of all identities and demographics and can manifest in many different forms.

Abusive relationships do not always appear abusive. Beyond the visible marks sometimes left by physical violence — which can include choking, biting, shoving, slapping, pulling hair, shoving, and more — power and control manifest in multiple ways that may be imperceptible to the outside viewer. 

Language is central in discourses of abuse. Calling one’s partner harmful or offensive names, seeking to humiliate or intimidate them, keeping secrets from them, intentionally eliciting guilt, and threatening violence — regardless of whether or not the violence occurs — are all markers of an unhealthy relationship. 

Social standing and markers of privilege are also used by many seeking control. Popularity, class, race, or disability are personal attributes often leveraged by one partner over another with the intent of manipulation. This can be seen in instances of economic exploitation, when one’s partner takes advantage of another’s relative wealth, or, conversely, refuses to allow them financial autonomy. 

Technology also factors prominently in patterns of abuse. Unwanted text messages or phone calls, unsolicited nude photos or explicit language, and even shared passwords invade an individual’s sense of privacy and personal control. 

IPV is cyclical, and often marked by isolation. The abuser will attempt to limit their partner’s involvement with other people and the outside world, including friends and family. Perpetrators may minimize or deny the abuse, refusing to acknowledge the victim’s concerns or else blaming the victim for inciting violent behavior. Excuses for abuse, such as alcohol or drug use, stress, and jealousy, are scapegoats and indicators of toxicity in the relationship.  

The spectrum of abuse is vast and encompasses many types of power: physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, financial, cultural, and spiritual, to name a few. This array can render IPV unrecognizable and sometimes seemingly inescapable. 

This month, take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Wellness Resource Center to learn more about IPV. Currently, the “Consent at CC” poster competition is accepting submissions for 11” x 17” designs that express your experience with consent. These can be sent to mbass@coloradocollege.edu. On Oct. 23, the WRC will be partnering with the Butler Center for an LGBTQIA+ “Sex and Relationship” talk at 6:30 p.m. in McHugh Commons. Additionally, there will be a Dating After Abuse workshop on Oct. 28 in the WRC, from 3–4:30 p.m. for survivors and 5–6:30 p.m. for partners. 

Susanna Penfield

Susanna Penfield

Susanna Penfield, class of 2020, writes the weekly column “Diving Into Wellness” in collaboration with the Wellness Resource Center. She is a Political Science Major and Feminist and Gender Studies Minor, co-chair of Student Title IX Assistance and Resource Team (START), editor for the Leviathan - CC’s journal for art, poetry, and prose - and member of the Cutthroat Rugby Team. In addition to the Catalyst, Susanna has been published in Cipher and the Leviathan, and her personal essays have been featured in both Colorado’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Nonfiction and the America’s Emerging Writers Series.
Susanna Penfield

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