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Dating/Domestic Violence

What is dating/domestic violence?

Dating or domestic violence, sometimes also called intimate partner violence or relationship abuse, is a pattern of behavior in which one partner uses fear and intimidation to establish power and control over the other partner, often including the threat or use of violence. This abuse happens when one person believes they are entitled to control another, and it may or may not include sexual assualt.

Dating and domestic violence occur in straight/heterosexual relationships, same-sex/gender relationships and in intimate relationships that do not involve romantic feelings. Intimate partner violence impacts people of all ethnicities, races, classes, abilities and nationalities.

Although there are some general patterns in domestic or dating violence, there is no typical abusive behavior. To wear down and control his/her victim, an abuser may use isolation, emotional harassment, physical contact, intimidation, or other means. The controlling behavior usually escalates, particularly if the victim of the abuse tries to resist or leave.

Types of abuse

In a violent relationship, behaviors that are used to maintain fear, intimidation, and power over another person may include threats, intimidation, economic abuse, sexual abuse, taking advantage of male privilege, or using someone's identity against them. These behaviors may take the form of physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological violence.

Physical violence: The abuser’s physical attacks or aggressive behavior can range from bruising to murder. It often begins with what is excused as trivial contacts, which escalate into more frequent and serious attacks. Physical abuse may include, but is not limited to, pushing, shoving, hitting, kicking, choking, restraining with force, or throwing things.

Sexual abuse: Physical attack is often accompanied by or culminates in some type of sexual intercourse with the victim, or forcing her/him to take part in unwanted sexual activity. Sexual violence may include, but is not limited to, treating the victim and other people as objects via actions and remarks, using sexual names, insisting on dressing or not dressing in certain ways, touching in ways that make a person uncomfortable, rape, or accusing the victim of sexual activity with others.

Emotional or psychological violence: The abuser’s psychological or mental attack may include constant verbal abuse, harassment, excessive possessiveness, isolation from friends and family, deprivation of physical and economic resources, and destruction of personal property. Emotional or psychological abuse may include, but is not limited to, withholding approval, appreciation, or affection as punishment; ridiculing her/his most valued beliefs, religion, race, or heritage; humiliating and criticizing her/him in public or private; or controlling all her/his actions and decisions.

It could be abuse if:

One person...

  • Constantly blames his/her partner for everything - including his/her own abusive behavior/temper.
  • Makes mean and degrading comments about a partner's appearance, beliefs or accomplishments.
  • Controls money and time.
  • Gets really jealous.
  • Loses his/her temper.
  • Physically and/or sexually assaults another.

The other person:

  • Gives up things that are important to her/him.
  • Cancels plans with friends.
  • Becomes isolated from family and/or friends.
  • Worries about making her/his partner angry.
  • Shows signs of physical abuse like bruises or cuts.
  • Feels embarrassed or ashamed about what's going on in her/his relationship.
  • Consistently makes excuses for her/his partner’s behavior.

If you are experiencing dating or domestic violence:

  • Know that it is not your fault.
  • You do not have to make a decision to report dating or domestic violence before accessing counseling, medical services, or advocacy.
  • If you do not want to reach out for support at this time, making a safety plan could help you think through how to feel safer.
  • It may be useful to start an incident log for evidence if you ever choose to report the violence.