Comps Insider: Nam Anh Nguyen ’19

Nam Anh Nguyen ’19, a psychology major with a minor in creative writing from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, tells us about her senior capstone experience, or ‘Comps,’ in support of her psychology degree.

Feb. 14, 2019

Nam Nguyen

What is your major?

Psychology with a minor in creative writing

What is the title of your Comps?

Revenge in Romantic Relationships and Intimate Partner Violence

What is your Comps topic?

My Comps is a literature review of studies on revenge patterns in romantic relationships. These studies examined the causes, risk factors, and patterns of behaviors involved in revenge. I also looked at revenge patterns in relationships, including minor tit-for-tat acts, physical abuse and homicide, and revenge porn. 

Why did you choose your Comps topic?

I work in the Title IX Office and have always been passionate about supporting survivors of gender violence and domestic abuse, so the topic is of great importance to me. Last summer, I interned at a non-profit for homeless youths and met many survivors of domestic abuse at the center. This experience made me realize how extremely vulnerable these individuals are, and how little protection they're offered. With this Comps topic, I wanted to find out why people commit such anti-social acts against the person they supposedly love. I also wanted to find out more about these unhealthy patterns of behavior in order to raise awareness about it, as well as to find possible applications to support and protect survivors. 

What was the most interesting article or piece of information that you found while researching your Comps?

I found out that in relationships with an abusive partner the potential for violent acts of revenge and assault increases significantly when the abused partner seeks divorce or separation, especially during the initial period of separation. Unmarried women of color seeking shelters and resources are at an even greater risk of homicide, because they usually don't get enough protection through the criminal justice system, even when they've reached out and sought intervention. Hence, survivors often are at greater risks of assault when they do try to escape the relationship than when they don't. The most common motive for post-separation violence involves revenge motivation, as men (who frequently are the abusers) view separation as an act of betrayal or a threat to their selfhood.

What was your Comps process like?

During Fall term, my Comps seminar was on Aggression. We looked at a lot of literature on aggression's biological basis and manifestations in instances such as bullying, homicide, and terrorism. We were expected to generate our own Comps topic based on the seminar. I initially chose Revenge as a broader topic. Then I scanned through the literature and research available, and narrowed it down due to the great amount of research I found. I wrote two drafts of my Comps through Fall term. I'll be submitting the final draft in a few weeks and will present it during Spring term.

Why do you think it was valuable for you to write a Comps? 

Despite the stress associated with handing Comps drafts in on time, I absolutely loved working on my Comps. Since I have so much agency over my topic and direction, Comps is something that's exciting for me to work on and learn from. It's a test of all the skills I've honed over the past four years: research, writing, and time management. Plus, my advisor, Professor Larry Wichlinski, was incredibly kind, supportive, and fun, so it was a great opportunity for me to get to know him better and learn from him. 

Will you expand on your Comps in any way?

I have a love-hate relationship with anything that I've worked on for too long (like many other “Comps-ing” seniors), so I'll let myself and my Comps rest for now. This topic remains fascinating to me, and there are still facets of it that I couldn't include in my Comps, so I'm tempted to expand on it (for my own curiosity) once the time comes. I'm still particularly interested in fear of retaliation and how it impacts human behavior, especially women's.