Nursing professors look to prevent dating abuse

Jessica White

Research finds local victims of violence

It was a cool, cloudy spring day when Jackie Bergeron’s boyfriend of nearly three years asked her to meet him in the local park after school.

But once they met, what began as a discussion quickly turned ugly.

“He punched me in the face,” said Bergeron, a freshman public relations major. Moments later, police arrived because the couple had been yelling so loudly.

Despite bad memories and a bloody nose, she was fine. Still, she said the situation could have been avoided.

Bergeron said her boyfriend had been verbally abusive for longer than a year.

“He’d call me stupid in front of his friends,” she said. “Or sometimes he’d shove me, or hit me in the arm and tell me to shut up.”

And this kind of behavior is not uncommon. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 11 adolescents reports to being a victim of physical dating violence.

It’s not uncommon locally, either. Researchers at Kent State’s College of Nursing have found nearly 90 regional cases of dating violence.

With support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kent State professors Claire Draucker and Donna Martsolf are leading a major research project to understand and prevent dating violence.

Draucker and Martsolf’s team of researchers has interviewed nearly 90 18- to 21-year-old victims and perpetrators of dating violence in Summit, Portage and Medina counties.

“We take it to the streets,” Draucker said. She said her team posts fliers with the research hotline in public buildings and hopes people call.

And they do.

“We have such a wide variety of people,” Martsolf said. “We’ve talked to the high school dropout who sells drugs and the honors student who goes to church every Sunday.”

Martsolf said the goal is to learn about their shared experience with adolescent dating violence and how it can be prevented.

Although Draucker and Martsolf are just beginning to deeply analyze the data, they have already published several articles on their findings. Both said they are excited to continue.

“It’s such an important issue,” Martsolf said. “And it’s something that can really affect the health of adolescents.”

Although she did not participate in the Kent State study, Bergeron is excited as well. She said it’s important to target younger groups for dating violence prevention.

“By the time you’re in high school, it’s too late,” she said.

Bergeron also wishes she had learned more about dating violence in school.

“You always hear about bullying and physical abuse but never about abuse from a boyfriend or girlfriend,” she said. “And it’s important that kids know the different forms and early signs of abuse.”

Bergeron said she hopes the College of Nursing’s research can make this possible.

“People will definitely benefit,” she said.

Contact news correspondent Jessica White at [email protected].