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Defining Healthy Relationships

Senior Honors Project Calls Attention to Severity of Intimate Violence

National movements such as No More and Take a Stand are calling attention to domestic violence and how to prevent it.

Senior social work major Bailey Sapp is determined to further spread awareness through her senior honors project, College Perceptions of Intimate Violence.

“Perceptions need to change in order to move forward,” Sapp said.

According to Sapp, intimate partner violence is different than domestic violence.

“Intimate partner violence is toxic patterns and abusive behavior that develop in relationships,” Sapp said. “Domestic violence is typically violence when people live together or have previously lived together.”

Sapp said intimate partner violence is a term usually reserved for “relationships where people are not necessarily committed.”

“The main misconception about violence is that the victim of abuse can just leave, when really it is much more than that,” Sapp said. “It can be complicated and blaming the victim or minimizing their situation should never happen.”

There are a variety of reasons why college students should be knowledgeable about this topic, Sapp said. One reason is that intimate partner violence is present within

21 percent of relationships, according to a study by the University of Michigan.

“This can be physical abuse, sexual violence, verbal abuse and other different methods of abusive behavior,” Sapp said.

Sapp’s research involved sending a survey out to the MVNU students. Hoping to get back at least 60 responses, Sapp was “excited to review the data” when she received 200 responses.

“Seeing a lot of people contribute to learning more about intimate violence was exciting,” Sapp said.

The survey included different scenarios of physical, emotional and verbal abuse, which students rated in severity using a five-point scale that ranged from “not abuse” to “extreme abuse.”

In one scenario the male was the aggressor and the other scenario the female was the aggressor.

“Some perceptions of intimate violence currently in colleges is that men largely rate the severity of abuse lower than women do,” Sapp said. “Women tend to think abuse is more severe and more of an issue than men do.”

With the high number of responses she received on the survey, Sapp then created another online survey to find out demographics about the students. She was especially interested in finding out if students considered themselves feminists.

“Identifying as a feminist positively impacts the way a person perceives the severity of abusive situations,” Sapp said. “When people identify as feminists, their tendency is to rate the severity of abuse higher and rating the severity of abuse highly is a good thing.”

She said she hopes her research helps bring awareness to the topic and helps men and women better understand and recognize abuse, and promote positive dating relationships.

“I am hoping that the project will help us identify where we need to implement more education on the subjects of feminism, equality and intimate partner violence,” Sapp said.

Although the project was “overwhelming,” Sapp said the project “gives insight to students on a Christian campus.”

After Sapp finishes her project, she will continue spreading awareness.

“There’s a lot of different issues that haven’t been addressed yet.”

In the end, Sapp hopes her project “helps students understand the difference between healthy relationships versus unhealthy relationships.”

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