By ASHLEY DELARM
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, marking the season of gift-giving to loved ones. Relationships are often displayed in a positive light; however, this may not be the case for all relationships. Often, people don’t recognize their self-worth and settle for someone who doesn’t treat them right because they have become attached to that person.
Toxic relationships can hinder a student’s academic performance and social health. Many universities offer resources to help students feel safe where they’re getting their education, but many feel society doesn’t talk about relationships enough. Often times, this can prevent people from recognizing when they’re in a toxic relationship, explained Drake University’s Violence Prevention Coordinator Lynne Cornelius.
“Part of the confusion is that abusive relationships start off very normal, and then there’s something in that relationship that changes and shifts, and somebody then takes over that power and control,” Cornelius said.
Cornelius went on to explain that often times, toxic relationships develop from a progression of behaviors, getting people into dangerous situations only after the trust has been built up and walls have been broken down.
“It’s really hard to tell when you’re in a toxic situation and it’s hard to get yourself out of one, especially when you’re in a new relationship or with people that you don’t know very well,” said a first-year student at Drake who asked to remain anonymous. This student shared that she spent a majority of her first semester dealing with the aftermath of a toxic situation and explained how hard it was to cope with what had happened and how much of an impact it had not only on her academics, but her day to day life as well.
“It was really hard because I never knew where I would see him, and it would bring back all of the memories,” the student explained. She said she stopped eating at the dining halls to avoid conflict and had trouble going to some of her classes when she knew he would be in the same building at that time.
She filed an informal complaint through Drake University’s Title IX office, to make her feel more safe and secure on campus. Katie Overberg, the Title IX coordinator at Drake, is responsible for making it known what resources the Uuniversity has to assist people who are potentially stuck in a toxic situation, through personal outreach and the Title IX webpage.
“Most reports of dating violence come from a friend or roommate who are witnessing things, and the person in the relationship hasn’t yet come to the conclusion that they’re in an unhealthy relationship,” Overberg said.
As the Title IX coordinator, Overberg can contact faculty, residence life administration and outside resources to help the student feel safe during their time at Drake.
“I don’t think you can see things when they’re happening so close to you,” Overberg said., “That’s the hard part when we’re in a relationship with someone when there was once positive feelings, thinking maybe the positive can outweigh the negative, until they’re at a point where they can’t make that balance anymore.”
Both Overberg and Cornelius explained how vital it is to stand by friends in these situations, even if they’re not ready to take action yet. Victims to these relationships can get caught up in a toxic cycle, and it can be emotionally exhausting on their friends as well. Explaining that walking away is often a form of protection for a friend’s heart, Cornelius said, “That just only further isolates that person to then only be able to rely on that potentially harmful relationship for support.”
Toxic relationships can leave people questioning themselves, feeling less than they are and doubting their self-worth. College campuses are no exception to these situations, and although we are officially in the season of love, everyone may not be loved in the way they deserve. There are different resources for students to go if they witness or experiencing any case of sexual misconduct. Students could go to a Title IX coordinator, which is not a confidential resource. Once a sexual harassment or violence situation is filed through Title IX, Drake is obligated to take reasonable steps to eliminate the behavior and prevent any further complication. For confidential help, they can seek out the help of a VIP (Violence Intervention Partner) student advocate or a professional advocate. The professional advocates’ office hours are Wednesdays from 3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. in Cowles Library 209. Students can also reach out to Polk County Crisis and Advocacy for confidential support.