Safety on Campus Post COVID-19
COVID-19 changed many things, including how schools teach classes virtually. When schools went online, relationships also became virtual. Some individuals started their relationships online by meeting their partners digitally, while some relationships became long-distance as partners moved apart. Whether you are in middle school, high school, or college, COVID-19 changed life as we knew it and had a significant impact on us all.
How COVID-19 Changed Relationships
When schools went online due to COVID-19, many people in relationships had to navigate a new dynamic. Some people stayed at home and had to talk on the phone or online. Others were able to live near their partner instead of moving to school. Many had conversations about how often they would talk if they could visit in person, how their relationship might change, and what digital communication looked like in a long-distance relationship.
Now that schools are holding classes in person, couples are navigating situations that didn’t happen when they were apart. For example, there might be a new balance of everyday demands such as school, work, and friends that you and your partner are trying to figure out. There may be new boundaries since you and your partner see each other at school or can easily hang out after class. It might be the first time your friends or family are introduced to your partner and see your relationship up close. What if they are concerned or dislike your partner? What if you and your partner have different ideas on how to have a real-life relationship? These can be challenging questions and subjects to talk about regardless of if your relationship is in person or virtual.
Remember, the foundation of a healthy relationship doesn’t change whether you are physically together or online. There needs to be open and honest communication about what you are feeling and experiencing. It’s still important to listen to what your partner shares and pay attention to their needs. You should feel comfortable setting boundaries knowing your partner will respect them. Now that people can physically be with each other, it’s also important to talk about consent in terms of what you are comfortable or uncomfortable with. These things should happen regardless of if you see your partner in person or online.
How To Support Your Friend
Going back to in-person classes also brings up new things for friends to figure out. Now you meet the person your friend has been talking about and see how they interact. This is exciting to witness, but what if things feel awkward?
- If Someone You Know is Confused
A difficulty of online classes is isolation. Since you were apart from your friends, you couldn’t talk or hang out with them like you usually could when classes were in person. Now that you can meet in person, your friend may feel more comfortable sharing uncertainties or concerns about their relationship. A great way to support a confused friend is by asking questions. This will help them figure out how they feel about the relationship. Here are some examples of questions you can ask:
- How have things been between you two lately?
- What does an argument look like between the two of you?
- What’s keeping you in the relationship?
- What are you thinking about doing?
Asking questions and listening to a friend share their perspective or thoughts about their relationship is a great way to help because it gives them space to process. You can always suggest our quizzes to help them gain some insight.
- If a Friend is Experiencing Abuse
What if you talk to a friend and realize that abuse is happening? Every situation is unique, so it is important to reflect those differences in your responses. Here are some tips to broadly support a friend or roommate. These are suggestions, so reflect on what fits the situation.
- Reach out to someone you think might need help. Center their safety and let them know you are available and want to help.
- Listen patiently. Emphasize that abuse is never their fault and that they deserve a healthy relationship. Continue to support them even if you disagree with the choices they make.
- Help them create a safety plan. Ask how you can help in moments of crisis, including who to contact and when to get help. Creating code words can be a great way to indicate they need help without letting others know.
- Help find resources. There are many different resources available to students, which can be overwhelming. Finding resources that can assist someone’s specific needs can be a great way to help.
- If a Friend is Causing Harm
When you are at school, you may realize that someone you know is experiencing abuse. You may also notice someone being abusive and using controlling behaviors with their partner. This is challenging because only the person causing harm can decide to change for themselves. There are ways you can encourage and support them. Here are some ideas:
- Learn and understand what abusive behaviors are so you can help them identify their abusive behavior.
- Deny attempts to deflect responsibility for abusive behavior. Help your friend focus on the survivor’s perspective and the harm caused. You can also help your friend process the weight of their actions.
- Believe survivors. If your friend’s partner comes to you to talk about the abuse, listen to them. It can be hard to share such vulnerable information, so listen and believe what they say.
- Connect with The Hotline to find professional help that may be available for your friend. Keep in touch with them to see progress on the action they are taking towards getting help and offer encouragement towards positive steps.
What if Abuse Occurs
Everyone wants a healthy relationship but it’s hard to know what will happen. It’s important to know the warning signs of relationship abuse so if you start to realize that your relationship is unhealthy or abusive you can get help.
Relationships can be extra challenging while at school because you may be away from your support system. It’s helpful to find support systems at school that you trust and feel comfortable sharing with. This may mean reaching out to friends, a teacher or other administrator, or campus safety officials.
Schools assume a certain responsibility to keep their students safe on campus. If you feel unsafe and need support, talk to the people you are comfortable sharing with. It’s important to note that most school employees are mandated reporters, meaning they’re required by law to report your situation to authorities if you’ve experienced abuse. It’s okay to ask the teacher or administrator you talk to about mandated reporting before sharing what happened.
Title IX is a federal civil rights law that can help you when experiencing abuse. It protects survivors by requiring schools to take certain actions for their safety. Your school should have a Title IX office where you can get support with alternative housing, counseling, tutoring, and legal options. It is one of many resources available to students who have experienced abuse or want to support a friend.
Support is Available
Changes can be challenging for everyone. If you are confused or concerned about how your relationship has changed due to COVID-19, support is available. Our advocates are here 24/7 through chat, text, and call to answer any questions you might have. You are not alone.