Combating Intimate Partner Violence on Campuses


Ashley Zhu, Contributor

Alexander Urtula, a 22-year-old Boston College student, jumped from a parking garage only hours before his graduation ceremony on May 20. It was reported that his then-girlfriend, Inyoung You, verbally and psychologically abused Urtula for months. Shown by the 47,000 text messages sent from You to Urtula, You had continually denied her boyfriend’s worthiness and encouraged her boyfriend to commit suicide. You was accused of involuntary manslaughter and her trial is scheduled for November 9, 2020.

While people lament the death of an outstanding biology student, this shocking case also draws the nation’s attention to intimate partner violence. Intimate partner violence (also called domestic violence) is common on college campuses and is devastating thousands of young college students; however, many victims are not even aware that they are under abuse. That’s because many people see domestic violence only as physical abuse; however, in fact, domestic violence also involves more subtle forms of abuse including emotional abuse, economic abuse, and intimidation or threat.

Among all the forms of domestic violence, emotional abuse is the most common form of domestic violence experienced by college students. In a survey of 63,497 American college students conducted by the American College Health Association, 8.7% of the students have experienced or are experiencing emotional abuse while only 1.7% of the students have experienced or are experiencing physical abuse by an intimate partner.

Including behaviors such as humiliation, destroying one’s self-esteem, and making one feel crazy or guilty, emotional abuse is one of the most damaging forms of domestic violence not only because it can cause tremendous psychological trauma on victims including anxiety and depression but also because it can be done without notice of the outside world. It is difficult for other people to detect emotional abuse and provide help to victims if the victims do not realize they are in an abusive relationship or do not voluntarily seek help.

There are several resources both on campus and outside of campus that Vanderbilt students can seek help from. “Project Safe is a wonderful resource on campus. Students can talk through their experiences and work with Project Safe to determine next steps,” said Marissa, the president of the Purple Ribbon Project – a student organization that aims at raising awareness about domestic violence on Vanderbilt campus.

In support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Purple Ribbon Project held the “Ribbon and Bubble Tea” event in October, handing out taro bubble tea to students, introducing campus resources for domestic violence victims, and accepting donations to the Mary Parrish Center, a non-profit organization that provides survivors of interpersonal violence and their children safe housing and individualized care. “Outside of the Vanderbilt campus community, YWCA for Nashville and Middle Tennessee is a great resource that offers domestic violence services and has a 24-hour crisis and support helpline. The National Domestic Violence Hotline also serve as a resource for victims and provides information on intimate partner violence,” said Marissa.

In order to prevent tragedies like the suicide of Alexander Urtula from happening again, it is drastically important for all of us to recognize the harm emotional abuse can inflict upon victims and have the knowledge on the resources for domestic violence victims which we can share with the victims if they ask help from us one day.


Important resources for domestic violence victims:

Project Safe 24-hour hotline: (615) 322-7233.

YWCA for Nashville and Middle Tennessee Hotline: 1-800-334-4628

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233