Traditionally, education is considered a protective factor to prevent violence because it empowers individuals socially, economically, and personally (Jewkes et al., 2002). While those who are at lower educational levels, defined as those who have a high school diploma or less, are more likely to experience violence, it is important to note that abuse occurs across all academic achievement levels. “In the simplest of terms, those individuals with less than a college education are at a higher risk of being victims of domestic violence than those with a college degree” (Jackson, 2007). Those with little education are often limited to lower-paying jobs or unemployment, which can create dependence on those who would abuse. If someone is being abused, but is unable to financially support him/herself and potential children, leaving the relationship can seem impossible.
Several factors in the education system contribute to the prevalence of violence. Recently, much research has been devoted to the effects of schools outsourcing disciplinary procedures to police and/or the juvenile justice system. The presence of “zero tolerance” policies and presence of school police who handle much of the discipline in schools has been shown to have a negative effect on the long-term health and wellbeing of communities and individuals. Students who, in the past, would have been disciplined for minor infractions on an institutional level are now facing criminal prosecution and time in the juvenile corrections system. By incarcerating students at this age, they are not being reformed from potential criminal behavior, but are learning it behind bars. Further, this system disproportionately affects minority and lower socioeconomic communities in much higher numbers (Lind & Nelson, 2015). Though this trend has not been directly linked to domestic violence efforts, a connection can be made to increasing educational opportunities to youth and the reduction of violence.
It is also important to recognize that low educational achievement is associated with perpetrating violence. Many studies have linked education and communication skills with the common understanding that perpetrators resort to violence because they are unable to communicate anger and frustration (Jeyaseelan, et. al, 2004). Though communication skills are adopted through education, the difference in educational levels may also be a risk factor. A partner with a higher educational level may be perceived as a threat by an offender who may resort to emotional or physical abuse to regain control in the relationship. Often those who experience violence report that efforts to achieve higher levels of education are sabotaged by those who abuse because of the threat of increased earning potential and independence, and/or because the abuser feels psychologically threatened (Jackson, 2007). To this end, adult education becomes a critical protective factor against domestic violence. Those who are able to achieve academically, especially into adulthood, increase self-esteem, increase employment opportunities, and are able to find independence from abusive relationships.
Finally, students who have received evidence-based healthy relationship education experience violence at lower rates than those who have not. Research has shown that students who receive multisession education on healthy relationships, delivered over time, can affect positive change in dating relationships. In order to affect change, the focus of these sessions should be to challenge attitudes and confront cultural norms, rather than give information about teen dating violence. Simply giving information about abuse is not effective, but empowering students to redefine the attitudes and beliefs of their community result in reduced rates of violence (WHO, 2009). It is the common belief that educational institutions who incorporate healthy relationship education as part of their curriculum will see incidents of violence reduce among students. Intersections will bring together service providers, education professionals at various levels, and support system staff to learn about the impact of education on the prevention and response to domestic violence.
By bringing together service providers, experts in a variety of fields, and the community, DVN will facilitate discussions and action plans on the following topics: