Domestic abuse growing concern for college students

by Erin Ghere

Kami Talley was getting back on her feet.
The 22-year-old was only months away from a University degree, was raising her 4-year-old daughter and had ended an abusive relationship with ex-boyfriend, Louis Cardona Buggs.
At one point, Talley had to get a restraining order against Buggs after he beat her so severely she was hospitalized.
But on Valentine’s Day 1996, Buggs walked into the northeast Minneapolis factory where Talley worked, and shot her several times. She died two hours later at Hennepin County Medical Center.
Talley’s young daughter accepted her mother’s University diploma that spring.
Kami Talley was just one of the many 17- to 24-year-olds throughout the state and at the University who experience domestic violence every day.
During 1998, the University Police responded to 13 domestic assault calls on campus property. In 1999, that number rose to 15. By the middle of last December police had responded to 10 calls.
The largest concentration of calls have come from the Como Student Community on 27th Avenue Southeast, one of two married-student housing complexes. The other is Commonwealth Terrace Cooperative in St. Paul.
These two complexes and Pillsbury Court, a faculty housing area, are the only on-campus areas where couples live together.
But the fact couples do not live together does not mean abuse does not occur, said Holly Rosen, director of Michigan State University’s Safeplace, the nation’s only university-affiliated shelter for battered women.
Domestic abuse is also an issue for dating couples not living together.
University residence halls — where couples do not live together — have also reported incidents. University Police have responded to abuse calls at Pioneer, Comstock, Centennial and Sanford halls and University Village at least once in the past three years.
University Police dispatcher Chuck Stier said domestic assault calls make up a small minority of all the situations officers respond to.
But, Jamie Tiedemann, director of the Program Against Sexual Violence, said domestic assault on campus and among college-aged students is a very prevalent issue.
And it is even more prevalent than most campus resources would ever know, she added, because, like sexual assault, abuse is a difficult thing to report.
Of 168 people who visited PASV last year, 36 were concerned about relationship violence, according to program statistics.
Domestic violence is extremely difficult to talk about, she added. Most people try to just move on and do not deal with what happened in the relationship.
“Our society encourages people to be quiet,” Tiedemann said.
Not just an older problem
The number of college-age people reporting abuse seems to be on the rise, said Katie Bauman, PASV volunteer coordinator and database specialist, but that could be attributed to a larger number of people reporting it.
Studies have long suggested that domestic abuse among 17- to 24-year olds is a reality.
Twenty-eight percent of high school and college-age students are in abusive relationships, according to American Bar Association statistics.
Of the 110 women reportedly murdered in apparent domestic violence cases between 1995 and 1999, 23 were 17- to 24-year olds, according to the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.
One of those women was Kami Talley. Another was Farrah Mohammed, 17, who was stabbed 17 times by a former boyfriend at the Mall of America in a widely publicized case.

The lone shelter
But as the number of reported domestic assaults on college campuses and among college-age people rise, most institutions have not concentrated many resources in that area.
Michigan State University, in East Lansing, is the only college or university in the country with a shelter for battered women, Rosen said.
The shelter is a 12-bed facility which is normally half to two-thirds filled with university-affiliated people. The other beds are used for overflow from the East Lansing shelter.
Of those with university affiliation, Rosen said the highest number the shelter sees are partners of university students, then university staff and their partners, and third, actual university students.
One reason for the low number of actual students who use the facility could be Michigan State’s extensive on-campus housing, Rosen explained. With 24 residence halls and three university apartment complexes, 17,000 students live on campus — making it easier to change rooms or halls if a student is attempting to escape a domestic situation.
Many of the primarily women the shelter sees are ready to leave their abuser, Rosen said, but not all of them. And the fact they seek aid at the shelter does not mean the abuser will ever be charged or convicted of a crime.
Many abusers — of all ages — are never charged or convicted because their victims are too scared to charge them or to appear in court, said Diane Quigley, advocacy program director at Minneapolis’ Domestic Abuse Project.
This also adds to the high number of domestic abuse cases that are dismissed each year, she said. Most of the 4,000 or more domestic violence arrests in the state each year are prosecuted as misdemeanors, if at all.