Relationship Violence

DEFINITION

Relationship Violence, also commonly known as dating or domestic violence, is defined as a pattern of abuse committed by a person, past or present, involved in a social, sexual or romantic relationship with the victim.  Relationship violence can encompass a broad range of behaviors that may include physical violence, sexual violence, emotional violence, and economic violence.

  • Physical Abuse: Any intentional use of physical force with the intent to cause fear or injury, like hitting, shoving, biting, strangling, kicking or using a weapon.
  • Verbal or Emotional Abuse: Non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking.
  • Sexual Abuse: Any action that impacts a person's ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs, including rape, coercion or restricting access to birth control.
  • Economic Abuse: Any action or behavior that attempts to control finances or economic situations. Examples include stealing from you or taking your money, making you account for every penny you spend, preventing you from working or pursuing a career, and pressuring you into paying for everything.
  • Digital Abuse: Use of technologies and/or social media networking to intimidate, harass or threaten a current or ex-dating partner. This could include demanding passwords, checking cell phones, cyber bullying, sexting, excessive or threatening texts or stalking on Facebook or other social media.

No physical violence needs to occur in order for a relationship to be abusive. However, it is important to know that emotional and psychological abuse often escalate to physical violence in time.

EXAMPLES OF ABUSIVE BEHAVIOR

  • Excessive possessiveness and jealousy
  • Constantly belittling or insulting partner
  • Checking partner's cell phone or email without permission
  • Isolating partner from family and friends
  • Pursuing sexual activity when partner is not fully conscious, is not asked, or is afraid to say no
  • Preventing partner from getting or keeping a job
  • Coercing partner to have sex without protection
  • Threatening to spread secrets and/or rumors (outing)
  • Telling partner how to dress or act
  • Hitting, slapping, pushing, strangling
  • Throwing things to threaten violence
  • Destroying partner's personal items

WARNING SIGNS

It often difficult to recognize abusive behaviors, especially since they usually aren't revealed in the beginning of a relationship. Below are some warning signs of abusive behavior that you may want to consider when examining your own relationship, or your friend's:

Does your partner:

  • Blame you for how they treat you, or for anything bad that happens?
  • Embarrass or make fun of you in front of friends and others?
  • Put down your goals and accomplishments?
  • Call you several times or show up places when you aren't together?
  • Tell you that you would be nothing without them?
  • Try to isolate you and control whom you see or where you go?
  • Pressure or force you to be sexual when you don't want to be?
  • Accuse you of flirting or "coming on" to others or accuse you of cheating on them?
  • Refuse to listen to you or show interest in your opinions or feelings?
  • Insist things always have to be done their way?
  • Ignore you, give you the silent treatment, or hang up on you?
  • Threaten to kill themselves if you break up with them, or tell you that they cannot live without you?
  • Demonstrate extreme mood swings (tell you you're the greatest one minute and rip you apart the next minute)?

WHAT TO DO

Visit the Get Help page for more information about safety, medical, support, and reporting options. 

If you believe your relationship is abusive please know that you do not deserve to be in an unhealthy relationship, and you are not at fault for the situation. Abusive relationships can be very complicated, especially if you care about your partner and at times feel happy with them. There are many reasons people remain in unhealthy relationships, including: fear of what their partner will do if they breakup; feeling isolated from friends; hoping the abusive partner will change; feeling emotionally invested in and dependent on the relationship.

Ending an unhealthy or abusive relationship is not like ending a healthy one. Your abusive partner may not accept the break up or respect your boundaries. They may try to control you through guilt trips, threats or insults. It may be very difficult to have a peaceful or mutual breakup with an abusive partner. Just know that as long as YOU are okay with the decision, it's okay if your partner is not.

If you're thinking of ending your relationship, consider these tips:

  • If you choose to break up with the person, it is best not to do so in person as they may react aggressively or violently.
  • If you break up in person, do it in a public place. Have friends or your parents wait nearby.
  • Don't try to explain your reasons for ending the relationship more than once. There is likely nothing you can say that will make your ex happy.
  • Let your friends and parents know you are ending your relationship, especially if you think your ex will come to your house or confront you when you're alone.
  • If your ex does come to your house when you're alone, don't go to the door.
  • Trust yourself. If you feel afraid, you probably have a good reason.
  • Ask for help.

*adapted from loveisnotabuse.org

RESOURCES

Visit the resources page to find information about who to contact for support and reporting options.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

There are a number of online resources that provide information about dating violence and relationship abuse, including:

Break the Cycle

Love Is Respect

The Red Flag Campaign

The Kristin Mitchell Foundation