Title IX Coordinator gives healthy relationship Q&A

Samantha Hauck | Staff Writer

Following Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness Week, Feb. 5-11, the Duquesne Title IX Office and Students Against Sexual Violence planned joint programming to encourage healthy relationships this Valentine’s Day. Title IX Coordinator and Director of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response, Alicia Simpson, provided insight into some frequently asked questions by students.

What is sexual violence?
Sexual violence can be displayed as behaviors that are both physical and verbal. Both, however, can be forms of harassment or assault. “At Duquesne, our policy states that sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, sexual misconduct, sexual assault, sexual exploitation (which includes sending intimate images of another person without their permission or knowledge), stalking and dating/domestic violence are prohibited conduct that the Office of Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response addresses,” Simpson said in an email.

What are some warning signs of an unhealthy relationship?
“A person in a relationship who feels like they are limited in what they can do or who they can spend time with is a red flag,” Simpson said. Examples of this can be restricting who one wishes to spend time with in an attempt to isolate them which leaves their only support system to be their partner. Another warning sign of an unhealthy relationship is crossing previously established boundaries with a disregard for their partner’s needs.

Why do people have a hard time leaving unhealthy relationships?
“Abuse tends to occur in cycles,” Simpson said. It begins with grand gestures in an attempt to show love in excess. It can then move onto an uncomfortable period of tension where there could be an increase of verbal criticism. This is then followed by an explosion, whether physical or verbal, that causes damage to the relationship. “It is a very difficult cycle to exit, even if you are able to identify that you are in it,” Simpson said.

What should you do if you find yourself or a loved one in an unhealthy relationship?
The Title IX Office and Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response provides a variety of needs and support to those in need. Seeking support from trusted friends and family for guidance on a situation can be helpful as well. “If a loved one is experiencing an unhealthy relationship, be there for them with encouragement and understanding. The university also has counseling services available that offer healthy relationships workshops and support groups,” Simpson said.

What do healthy relationships look like?
“Healthy relationships could look different to different people; however, respect and autonomy are usually central to them,” Simpson said in an email. In most healthy relationships, partners should feel supported and cared for while still being able to pursue their personal interests.\

What are some ways to prevent sexual violence?
Sexual violence exists in virtually every community. Educating oneself on the different ways it affects individuals is a key part in preventing it. “In our relationships, we can model healthy boundaries and demonstrate consensual practices while holding others around us to the same standard,” Simpson said. Showing support and solidarity as a community to those in need is a great help as well.

​​Is there any advice you can provide on how to avoid these situations if possible?
“Avoidance of situations and methods of staying safe while you are out in the world is called risk reduction in prevention work. While it is not considered primary prevention, and it is much more effective to address underlying causes within a culture, it is also important to stay safe and be practical. Sharing locations with trusted friends and leaving somewhere with everyone you came with are also good practices,” said Simpson.

“Other advice we would offer is to discuss your boundaries with your partner in advance and to understand what affirmative verbal consent looks like to ensure that you are obtaining that from your partner each and every time. More information on consent can be found on the Title IX website at duq.edu/titleix.”

Where are Student Resources?
“The Office of Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response is located in offices 339 and 340 in the Student Union. You can come in person for assistance during normal business hours, you can also email titleix@duq.edu or the Title IX Coordinator Alicia Simpson at simpsona8@duq.edu.” Students can call 412-396-2560 to talk through an issue or report a concern. Anonymous reporting is also available through the Title IX website at duq.edu/titleix.

If a student feels unsafe, they are encouraged to contact Public Safety at 412-396-2677 with any concerns. Duquesne’s community partner, the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh is another resource that students can use to discuss these situations confidentially. Their helpline number is 412-687-8005.

Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR), Allegheny County’s rape also has a crisis center. For those impacted, they have free and confidential services. Their phone number is 412-431-5665.