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Domestic/Dating Violence

It could be abuse if...

Relationship violence is a pattern of behavior in which one partner uses fear and intimidation to establish power and control over the other partner. This often includes the threat or use of violence. This abuse happens when one person believes they are entitled to control another. It may or may not include sexual assault, physical abuse, and emotional abuse.

Relationship violence can occur in straight/heterosexual relationships, same-sex/gender relationships and in intimate relationships that do not involve romantic feelings. Intimate partner violence can happen with roommates, friends, classmates, or teammates. Relationship 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 emotional harassment, physical contact, intimidation, or other means. The controlling behavior usually escalates, particularly if the object of the abuse tries to resist or leave.

Relationship (Domestic) and Dating Violence on a College Campus

Many times, when people hear 'domestic violence' they imagine a couple hitting and screaming, leaving bruises or even a hospital visit. Typically, that is not what DV looks like a college campus. It is imperative to remember that DV escalates over time, meaning it doesn’t start all of the sudden with physical violence. There are usually early warning signs of a potentially abusive relationship.

Often, control is the earliest indicator of a potentially volatile partner. This might look like a partner being obsessive about checking your phone, looking at your Facebook page or other social media, checking your email, etc. It might come across as 'cute' that your partner cares so much for you that he/she just wants to know everything you're doing. However, these types of behaviors are not ok and may be early warning signs of potential abuse.

Another early indicator is isolation. If a partner doesn’t want you spending time with friends or family and you begin to feel isolated, like you can’t talk to anyone but your partner without causing a fight or making your partner jealous, this is a problem. Many abusive partners use isolation as a control mechanism to make it feel harder to leave the relationship. Especially in college where many people are far away from home and family, isolation can be a very influential means of control. There are certain behaviors that might be considered 'red flags.' You can read more about these red flags at Be sure to watch out for these behaviors in your relationships and in your friends' relationships.

"Red flags" include someone who:

  • Wants to move too quickly into the relationship.
  • Early in the relationship flatters you constantly, and seems "too good to be true."
  • Wants you all to him- or herself; insists that you stop spending time with your friends or family.
  • Insists that you stop participating in hobbies or activities, quit school, or quit your job.
  • Does not honor your boundaries.
  • Is excessively jealous and accuses you of being unfaithful.
  • Wants to know where you are all of the time and frequently calls, emails, and texts you throughout the day.
  • Criticizes or puts you down; says you are crazy, stupid, and/or fat/unattractive, or that no one else would ever want or love you.
  • Takes no responsibility for his or her behavior and blames others.
  • Has a history of abusing others.
  • Blames the entire failure of previous relationships on his or her former partner; for example, "My ex was totally crazy."
  • Takes your money or runs up your credit card debt.
  • Rages out of control with you but can maintain composure around others.

Keep reading about these definitions, but remember to think about how they might look like on a college campus as opposed to what you see in movies or in the media. Also, if you have a friend you suspect to be in an abusive relationship, check out the Supporting DV Victims page to see how you can help.

Types and Forms of Relationship Violence

Relationship violence is a crime. Behaviors that are used to maintain fear, intimidation, and power over another person may include threats, economic abuse, sexual abuse or taking advantage of privilege. These behaviors may take the form of physical, sexual, emotional, and/or psychological violence.

General descriptions of the types of domestic and dating violence are as follows:

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 a 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 Intimate Partner 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 extremely jealous of everyone, i.e. friends, family, etc.
  • Isolates a partner.
  • Loses his/her temper.
  • Is obsessive of a partner.
  • Physically and/or sexually assaults another.

Or the other person:

  • Gives up things that are important to her/him, including friends, family, hobbies, etc.
  • 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 Intimate Partner Abuse or Suspect a Friend is...

Know it is not your fault and there are numerous On and Off Campus Resources. Check out the Supporting DV Victims page as well to learn how you can be a supportive friend.