Center for Injury Research and Prevention

College and Police Authorities Need Protocols to Protect Students from Intimate Partner Violence

March 5, 2019

Moderator's note: Today, I am really excited to introduce our guest blogger, Teresa Salinas, LSW, an Intimate Partner Violence specialist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Karabots Pediatric Care Center.

It’s a sad fact that when violence is committed against college-aged women in Philadelphia it is most likely perpetrated by a current or former intimate partner. Studies show that 1 in 3 women, 1 in 4 men, and 1 in 2 transgender people experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

My colleague Rachel Myers recently blogged about stalking on college campuses. Unfortunately, the response to complaints of threatening behaviors can vary greatly depending on the school and locale. The murder of University of Utah senior Lauren McCluskey last fall (who alerted campus authorities and local police numerous times that her older ex-boyfriend was stalking her) highlights the disconnect that persists when it comes to school and law enforcement authorities taking action on reports of threatening behavior against students.

Teresa Salinas, LSW

The lack of a clear, consistent protocol for students, campus authorities and local police to follow lies at the center of this disconnect. Most survivors do not expect threats or abuse from the person they are in a relationship with and care about, and consequentially may not know how to seek help or who they can trust.  People experiencing abuse may think things like “I never thought I’d be in this situation” or “I never thought this would happen.”

A successful approach to handling reports on threatening behaviors towards others on campus requires coordination at the individual, campus, local, and state levels.

Actionable Steps at a Local Level

Campuses, advocacy groups, and local law enforcement must step up education and awareness efforts to support all students and ensure survivors know about the resources available to them. Robust awareness campaigns to educate people about intimate partner violence can help people recognize threats before they escalate to violence and to feel more comfortable going to authorities.

At the same time, consistency in handling complaints and investigations is crucial. Clear procedures must be instituted universally, as responding to incidents on a case-by-case basis can be detrimental to all involved. If survivors do not know what to expect when asking for help and are not sure if it will make them safer, it is difficult to make an informed decision about when and how to do so. Campus and local police need specific guidelines, standards and policies in place that are effectively communicated to the public.

This leads to the issues of accountability. In the absence of campus and police authorities taking steps to address inadequate responses to complaints about intimate partner violence or threats, legislation and public pressure could help bring about change. 

Legislative and State Support

In Utah, the state Senate recently passed a bill that would require public colleges to implement policies on how to respond to reports of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. The proposed bill would mandate training campus police to recognize the various warning signs of violence 

In addition, the bill would require all of Utah’s public colleges to publish information on resources for survivors, how to report a crime, and how students can request campus security escorts. Under the bill, all student groups on campus, from sports teams to fraternities and sororities, would conduct regular training on preventing assault.


Finally, helping college students and staff better understand intimate partner violence and what healthy relationships look like will promote informed choices and competent responses to incidents and threats of violence. While physical aggression can be relatively easy to identify and document, other forms of violence are not. For example, constant calls and text messages, monitoring a partner’s whereabouts, and attempts to isolate a partner from family and friends are also abusive behaviors which are aimed to gain power and control over another person. Teens and young adults in new relationships may be navigating issues related to respect and consent for the first time. Providing education and support for college students will empower them to know when and how to seek help.

Helpful Resources

  • The purpose of Loveisrespect is to engage, educate and empower young people to prevent and end abusive relationships. Trained advocates offer support, information and advocacy to young people (as well as concerned friends, family, teachers, counselors, service providers, and members of law enforcement) who have questions or concerns about their dating relationships. Free and confidential phone, live chat, and texting services are also available 24/7.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
  • 24/7 Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-866-723-3014

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