Relationship violence is a broad term used to describe violent and controlling behavior
by a person who is currently with or was previously with the victim. Relationship
violence includes those who are married or dating and those who may share a child
in common. It happens just as much in straight relationships as it does in same sex
Relationship violence may include any of the following: threatened or actual physical
injury, psychological and emotional abuse, sexual assault, economic control and social
The behaviors listed below may be present at any time during the relationship and
may vary in degree or intensity. It is important to note that not all of these behaviors
need be present for it to be an abusive relationship. An abusive partner may exhibit
one or all of these characteristics.
- Emotional Abuse: A pattern of behavior that diminishes or destroys a persons sense of self-worth and
self-esteem. Emotional abuse includes jealous behavior, ignoring feelings, belittling values, restricting
social activities with others, and withholding love, approval, and affection.
- Verbal abuse: Using words to injure another person. This includes name calling, insults, threats
of physical and/or sexual violence, threats of self-harm and/or suicide, humiliation,
intimidation, and exaggerated criticism for mistakes.
- Sexual abuse: Includes any forcible sexual activity that occurs without consent. This can range
from unwanted touching to forcible penetration. Sexual abuse also includes verbal
criticism of one's body.
- Physical abuse: Includes any behavior that causes or threatens bodily harm. Some examples are hitting,
slapping, grabbing, breaking things, or threatening to do any of the above.
How do I Recognize a Violent Relationship?
Does the Person You Are Involved With Exhibit a Pattern of These Behaviors?
- Gets jealous easily
- Criticize your behavior
- Insist on making all the decisions
- Tries to control what you wear or who you spend your time with
- Threatens to "out" you
- Insults or humiliates you
- Turns everything around on you or makes you feel crazy
- Checks up on where you have been or insists that you "check in" while your out
Has your partner ever:
- Shoved, pushed, slapped, kicked, punched, pinched, bit, or physically intimidated
- Demanded or insisted that you have sex or pressured you into sex when you did not
- Threaten bodily harm or threaten to kill you or those around you?
- Threatened to commit suicide?
- Thrown or broken objects?
- Stopped you from leaving or calling for help?
Cycle of Abuse in Relationships
Abuse in relationships can follow a cyclical pattern. There are times when abusive
behavior happens only once, but unfortunately this is not the case in most abusive
relationships. Violent behavior typically repeats throughout the cycle. Keep in mind
that not all of the victim/abuser behaviors listed below always occur, they are just
some examples of commonly reported reactions.
Stage 1: Tension building: The abuser may become edgy and start to react more negatively to frustrations. The
tension may rise to a point where the abuser feels that he/she has lost control over
the behavior/actions of the victim.
- Possible abuser reactions: moody; withdraws affection; criticizes and puts victim down; threatens; yells.
- Possible victim reactions: attempts to calm abuser; nurtures; withdraws from daily activities; feelings of walking
Stage 2: Acute explosion: This is often the shortest of the stages because violence most always occurs at this
point. The abuser may outwardly express more intense anger. Some victims become more
emotionally detached because becoming emotional with the abuser could be more likely
to trigger violence. It typically ends after a violent outburst by the abuser.
- Possible abuser reactions: physical violence like hitting, choking, slapping; sexual violence ranging from unwanted
touching to forcible rape; emotional violence like humiliation, yelling, name calling,
badgering; use of weapons.
- Possible victim reactions: attempts to protect self; calling police, family, or friends; tries to calm abuser;
tries to reason with abuser; fights back; withdraws.
Stage 3: Honeymoon: This is typically a welcomed stage by both the abuser and the victim. The abuser usually
expresses remorse for his/her actions and the victim starts to believe that the abuser
can change and stop being abusive. This stage often continues until the abuser begins
to feel confident again and starts to feel a loss of control over the victim's behavior.
This stage has shown to decrease in length over time and has been shown to in some
cases, disappear totally.
- Possible abuser reactions: promises to get help; asks for forgiveness; gets gifts for victim; promises love and
- Possible victim reactions: agrees to stay; sets up counseling; feels happy and hopeful.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships
Relationships should be a source of mutual respect, support and companionship. Unfortunately,
not every relationships is based on these principles. Take a look below at these
examples of healthy and unhealthy relationships and see where your relationship lies.
Healthy Relationships Involve:
- The sharing of thoughts and ideas
- Being a good listener
- Using respectful language and gestures even when in disagreement
- Being honest with, and accountable to, your partner
- Being dependable
- Believing your partner
- Having support from friends and family
- Being able to rely on other people besides your partner for needs
- Having equal decision-making power with your partner
- Being able to both "give" and "take" in your relationship
- Having a partner who is emotionally supportive and encourage
- Having a partner and being in a relationship that is peaceful
Unhealthy Relationships Involve:
*The following examples are "RED FLAGS" for dating violence!!
- Calling partner over and over again
- Getting angry with partner for spending time with other people
Emotional Abuse and Victim Blaming:
- Using derogatory language to describe partner
- Constantly finding fault with partner
- Making partner feel bad about herself/himself
- Making partner "pay" for spending time with other people
- Persuading partner into giving up activities that she/he enjoys
- Making all of the decisions in the relationship
- Ignoring partners wishes or needs
- Manipulating or forcing partner into doing something against his/her will
Physical and Sexual Abuse:
- Grabbing or pushing partner
- Throwing or breaking objects
- Forcing partner to engage in sex or sexual activity
*The above information regarding Relationship Violence was adapted from the following
resources: Stop Abuse at Virginia Tech site: www.stopabuse.vt.edu and from the Red Flag Campaign;
**The Cycle of Abuse information is adapted from Walker, L. (1980) The Battered Woman
and a brochure titled "Dating Violence" from Sexual Assault Services and Crime Victim
Assistance, Rutgers University.
Sexual Assault is a broad term that covers any coerced or forced sexual activity against
a victim without his or her consent OR sexual contact with a person who is unable
to give consent (e.g., a person who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or
"passed out" or asleep). SEXUAL ASSAULT IS NOT ABOUT SEX. It is about asserting power
over a victim and it includes--but is not limited to--the following:
- Unwanted kissing and fondling, forcible vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse, forcible
vaginal, oral or anal penetration with an object or a finger
- Sexual Assault happens to both men and women
- Sexual Assault can happen between members of the opposite sex or the same sex
- It may include alcohol, date rape drugs or other substances
- Most sexual assault victims know the perpetrator. That person may be the victim's
best friend, lover, partner, date, family member, neighbor, teacher, employer, doctor,
classmate, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife or casual acquaintance.
Common Reactions to Sexual Assault
Traumatic experiences affect everyone in different ways. There is no "right" or "wrong"
reaction to sexual assault. Below are a few possible reactions to sexual assault.
- Stomach Aches
- Feeling lethargic
- Loss of Energy
- Loss or increase of appetite
- Change in sleeping pattern
- Physical injury
- Muscular tension
- Sexually transmitted disease
- Inability to concentrate
- Sense of disbelief
- Fear of being alone
- Mood swings
- Low self-esteem
- Maybe it was my fault
- What will people think?
- He/She didn’t mean it
- Will people blame me?
- Will they reject me?
- Why did this happen to me?
- Am I damaged goods?
- What if I had or hadn’t done…?
- He/she owes me an apology
- Why did he/she do this?
- If I forget about it, it will go away
- I want to confront this person
- I am scared to be around this person
- Afraid to be alone
- Uncomfortable around other people
- Afraid/nervous in crowds
- Difficulty trusting others
- Hypersensitive when relating to others
- Afraid to leave the house (especially alone)
- Less productive
- Difficult time relaxing
- Disruptions with sexual relations
- Difficulties/apprehension around men, especially if they look like the assailant
*Common Reactions to Sexual Assault adapted from Columbia University Health Services:
Common Myths about Sexual Assault
Myths are beliefs that are culturally formulated, socially transmitted, and Factually
unfounded. Myths about sexual assault deny the violent, hostile, and demeaning nature
of these crimes and often shift the blame from the abuser to the victim.
Myth: Sexual assault results from an uncontrollable, impulsive, sexual urge of biological
Fact: Sexual assault is motivated by hostility, power, and control. Clinical studies
of offenders find that sexual assaults are not motivated by a biological desire. Unlike
animals, humans are capable of controlling how they choose to act on or express sexual
Myth: Sexual assault happens to women who "ask for it" by dressing provocatively.
Fact: Sexual assault is not the result of the way a person dresses or acts. It is
the assailant who decides to assault another person.
Myth: When a woman says "no" she means "maybe" or "yes".
Fact: When a woman says "no," she means NO. Sexual intercourse without consent is
rape. A person has the right to control her/his own body.
Myth: Most sexual assaults are committed by strangers.
Fact: Most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.
Myth: Spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, and partners cannot sexually assault each
Fact: Spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, and partners can and do sexually assault each
other. Being in a relationship or marriage does not give either partner the right
to have sex without their partner's consent.
* This information was obtained from the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault
Hotline. For more information, call their toll free number at 1-800-838-8238.
Drug Facilitated Sexual Assaults
“Date rape drugs” are narcotics used to incapacitate someone or get them to the point
where forced or non-consensual sexual activity can take place with little resistance.
While alcohol remains the primary drug involved in sexual assaults, use of drugs such as Rohypnol (roofies), GHB (liquid E), and Ketamine (special K)
are becoming increasingly common and pose a serious threat to personal safety.
Date Rape Drugs
- Are often colorless, tasteless, and odorless, and dissolve quickly in drinks
- Are intensified in effect when mixed with alcohol or other drugs
- Have a quick reaction, often within 15 minutes
- Feeling more intoxicated than usual for the amount you drank, or feeling “woozy” or
“out of it”
- Remembering taking a drink but not being able to remember anything afterwards
- Dizziness, nausea, drowsiness, drunk-like effects, blackouts, amnesia
- Having an impression or feeling of having had sex, but not being able to remember
While there is no guaranteed protection against sexual assault, the following steps
can increase your awareness and safety:
- Go to parties, bars, and clubs in groups, and use the buddy system to watch out for
each other’s safety. Have a plan to leave together, or to check in and let each other
know where you are going and with whom
- Only accept mixed or open drinks from the bartender or server
- Don’t accept drinks at parties if they are being mixed in large containers
- Always keep your drink with you, and in sight
- Be wary of drinks that are unusually salty, have a strange odor, or have foam or residue
on the surface
- If you hear someone “kidding” about date rape drugs, pay attention
If you think you or a friend has been drugged:
- Get to a safe place
- Ask a person you trust to stay with you, or remain by your friend’s side, until help
- Seek immediate medical attention and tell the examiner anything you remember
- The presence of drugs can sometimes be detected through urine analysis, but this will
only be done at the discretion of the District Attorney’s office if a police report
*Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault information adapted from Columbia University Health
Stalking is a course of conduct that places a person in reasonable fear for their
safety. It is a pattern of threats or harassment that is directed repeatedly toward
a specific individual and is experienced as unwelcome, intrusive, or fear inducing.
It can include physical appearances of the stalker and harassing behaviors such as
sending unwanted letters, phone calls, messages, gifts, and unwanted instant messages,
email correspondence or text messages.
While a few victims are picked at random by their stalker, most stalking victims know
their stalker, usually having had some type of present or past relationship. The perpetrator
can be an intimate partner or former partner, classmate, roommate, or other acquaintance.
A victim can be stalked for several days or for many years. The stalker's actions
can also affect family, friends, and co-workers. Stalking and criminal harassment
can be difficult to distinguish.
What Does Stalking Look Like?
Stalking can sometimes be a difficult thing to determine. Not only can this be difficult
for law enforcement, but it can be difficult for a victim to determine as well. Take
a look a the following scenario:
After having gone out on a date with someone, you decide that person was just not
for you and you do not want to see him or her again. That night, however, you receive
a phone call from that person. He or She leaves a message letting you know what a
wonderful time he or she had with you and asks you to please call back.
You make the decision not to call that person back. The next day you get another
phone call and message. Again you decide not to call back. Then you receive a text
message, "I've called and left a couple of messages 'PLEASE' call me back."
Ignoring the text message, you leave for your job at the campus book store. While
stocking the shelves you see your 'date' asking a co-worker if you are there. Your
co-worker tells that person no, but he or she argues with them saying that they "KNOW
YOU ARE THERE!"
By this time you feel a little creeped out, but you decide to blow it off. That night
as you are sitting in your dorm room, you get another phone message from your 'date',
"Hi! I was just walking by your dorm and I see that your lights are on, so I know
you are there. Why aren't you returning my phone calls? I don't understand! You
NEED to call me!" By now you are very creeped out, but you don't know what to do
about it, so you ignore the phone call and go to bed.
The next morning you leave your dorm room and as you walk out of your door you find
trash all over the floor and all of your door decorations ripped off and on the ground.
You clean it up and go to class. When you get back you have another phone message
from your 'date' who is now raging mad, "WHY AREN'T YOU CALLING ME BACK? I THOUGHT
WE HAD A GOOD TIME THE OTHER NIGHT. ARE YOU TRYING TO LEAD ME ON? YOU OWE ME AN EXPLANATION.
YOU BETTER CALL ME BACK THIS TIME!"
By this time your are not creeped out...you are frightened. You decide to leave campus
and as you approach your car you see that your windshield has been broken and there
are deep scratches along the side of your car.
AT WHAT POINT DID THIS BECOME STALKING? This can be a difficult thing to determine for many people. For some the stalking
began after the first phone call. For others the second; for some when the text messages
began or when this person showed up at his or her place of employment; and still for
others it began when that person was outside his or her dorm room.
Now, think about that person being someone you know. Would it be more difficult to
"see" or believe that that person was stalking you? In cases like these it may be
easier for you to justify his or her behavior and ignore what your gut is telling
you, but it is important to listen to what your body is telling you--if you feel that
something is wrong, then you are probably right.
What To Do if You are Being Stalked
Cut Off All Communication with Stalker! If this is a person that you know, or as in the previous scenario, have gone out on
a date with--tell this person once, and only once, that you are not interested in pursing a relationship and to leave you alone. Often times a person who finds his or herself in this type of situation will try
to stop this behavior by being nice or friendly hoping that if they just act politely this person will go away. Still others will
behave negatively by being cruel, mean, curt or abrasive hoping that this behavior
will cause the person to go away. It is important to note that no matter what your reaction is--friendly or abrasive--it is still a reaction and that is all a stalker is looking for. So, remember, tell that person once and
only once that you are not interested and to leave you alone and cut off all contact
Tell Someone! It is important that you tell someone if you believe you are being stalked. Share
your concerns with a family member, friend, professor, school counselor or law enforcement
Document! Make sure to keep an incident log. Keep track of any type of contact (e.g., unwanted phone calls, text messages, emails, Facebook or Myspace contact,
letters, cards, gifts, contact through a third party, unannounced visits or sightings
of the person, etc.) Write down: the date, time, location, witnesses present, the
type of contact, what was said or what happened. This information starts a paper
trail and is useful should you decide to involve law enforcement.
Alert Those Around You! If you are being stalked make sure to let those around you know what is happening.
Tell your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, church--even your local video store
or pizza delivery place! Ask them not to give out your personal information. This
will alert those in your community to what your are experiencing. Those people can
help to look out for you by being aware of any strange things happening around your
home, place of work, where you do business and even where you shop!
Report this Crime! Call UofM Campus Police Services to report this crime or call 911. Make sure that whether the police respond or not
that your complaint has been logged and request a copy of that report. Put these
reports with the rest of your documented paper trail. If you are not comfortable
contacting police services on your own contact someone at the UofM Counseling Center for assistance or call CRISIS-7 (274-7477) for 24 hour free and confidential assistance in dealing with this crime.
Consider Pressing Charges or Getting an Order of Protection!
Other Steps You Can Take
- Try not to walk alone. If you are on campus after dark call the Tiger Patrol (678-HOME) for an escort.
- Know your surroundings. Take a look at the UofM Campus Map and familiarize yourself with the campus.
- Know where the UofM Safety Phones are located.
- Choose different routes to school, work or other routine places you frequent.
- Park in well-lit areas.
- Check the front and back seats of your vehicle before getting in.
- Make sure to lock your car and house doors.
- Change the locks to your home.