Relationship Violence

A little conflict is normal in most relationships. Disagreements happen from time to time, even with the people closest to us. Violence, however, is not normal. It is abuse. There is never an excuse for relationship violence. It is always wrong.

Relationship violence is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to establish and maintain power and control over the other partner. Abusive behaviors tend to become more frequent and intense over time. If a partner is abusive during the dating or courtship phase of a relationship, his/her actions will worsen if the relationship moves to a more committed phase such as engagement, living together, or marriage.

Understanding and identifying the forms of relationship violence is the first step in removing yourself from these types of situations. Sometimes abusive behaviors happen in the context of ongoing relationships; other times people become victims of such behaviors from people they know only peripherally or don’t know at all. It is important to know what to look for in order to protect yourself.

Forms of Relationship Violence

Physical - Such behaviors can include hitting, slapping, punching, choking, pushing, burning, throwing objects, or any other type of contact that results in physical harm to victim. Behaviors need not leave bruises or other marks in order to be considered physically violent. Some abusers inflict harm onto other targets, such as children or pets, in order to hurt the victim. Others deny medical care, food, water and/or sleep to their victims.

Sexual - Any sexual contact that is unwanted, including pressuring or coercing someone into doing something sexual that they don’t want to do. Sexual violence can include unwelcome touching or kissing, unwanted rough or violent sex, use of threats to obtain sexual favors, attempted rape, and rape. Sexual violence can occur between two people who have previously engaged in consensual sex, including committed partners and spouses.

Emotional - This form of relationship violence includes any behavior that threatens, intimidates, or undermines the victim’s self-worth or controls the victim’s personal freedom. It can also include threatening harm, isolating the victim from others, and public humiliation. Controlling behavior includes monitoring the victim’s movements or restricting their access to friends/family, employment, or education. Constant criticism, devaluing statements, and name-calling are abusive behaviors.

Verbal - Any form of language that involves threats, name-calling, blaming, ridicule, disrespect, and/or criticism is verbal abuse. Words that are meant to humiliate, falsely accuse, manipulate others, make the victim feel unloved or unwanted are considered verbal abuse.

Economic - Such behaviors occur when one intimate partner has control over the other partner’s access to economic resources. The motive behind this form of abuse is to diminish the victim’s capacity to support him/herself and preclude his/her sense of freedom and independence. Restricting access to cash or credit, changing account PINs and passwords, and forcing someone to sign financial documents are forms of economic abuse.

You may be in a violent relationship if ...

  • You are frightened by your partner's temper.
  • You are afraid to disagree with your partner; you feel guilty when you do.
  • You have been kicked or shoved, or otherwise physically hurt by your partner.
  • You are not allowed to see friends or family because of your partner’s jealousy or anger.
  • Your partner frequently criticizes you with disrespectful language and name-calling.
  • You are afraid to tell your partner “no.” You feel obligated to do what your partner wants, including going places, participating in activities, and/or having sex.
  • You have been forced to explain what you do, where you go, and who you see in order to quell your partner’s temper.
  • Your partner seems to have more control over your money than you do.
  • You spend much of your time making apologies and promises to your partner.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome attention of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. Sexual harassment can be verbal, nonverbal, physical, or written (including electronic communication). Examples include crude jokes, vulgar gestures, offensive visual displays, unwelcome invitations for dating and/or sex, and inappropriate touch escalating to sexual assault or rape. This type of behavior often interferes with the victim’s educational or work performance and creates a sense of fear or dread about encountering the offender. Those that harass others are often in a position of power. They use that position to intimidate and threaten their target into cooperation and/or silence.

Stalking

Stalking refers to the criminal act of intentionally or knowingly engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person, when the stalker knows or should know that his/her behavior would cause fear or emotional distress to the target. Examples of stalking behavior may include following, sending gifts or notes (including electronic communication), waiting or watching at the victim’s home, school, workplace, or other sites frequented by the victim, or approaching the victim in public places.

The motivations for stalking are many. They include the desire for contact with the victim, control, obsession, jealousy, and anger. These motivations may stem from a real or imagined relationship between the victim and the stalker. The stalker may feel intense attraction or extreme hatred. The actions of the stalker may or may not be overtly threatening to the victim, but if a reasonable person would feel fearful, threatened, or otherwise emotionally distressed by the behavior, it could be considered criminal stalking.

WSU students have the right to be protected from negative educational impact when they are victims of any form of relationship violence. You are not alone, and you have the right to be safe. Many of the resources on this page can help protect you, and can help you protect yourself.

What to do if you are a victim of relationship violence

Your safety is the first priority. It is important to keep in mind that relationship violence most often escalates, getting worse with time. The faster you can protect yourself from future violent incidents, the better. Here are some options to consider:

  1. Report the abusive incident to appropriate authorities that can help. These might include your local police department and/or WSU Police, the Dean of Students, and/or the Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity officer. Take copies of all reports and record incident numbers for your records.
  2. Consult with police and/or legal counsel regarding protective orders and restraining orders. You may choose to file one of these documents in order to communicate in an official way that your abuser must stay away from you.
  3. If necessary, seek medical attention. Have injuries documented and photographed.
  4. Go to a safe place such as a domestic violence shelter. Local options include Your Community Connection in Weber County and Safe Harbor Crisis Center in Davis County.
  5. Seek the support of caring people. Tell someone you trust about the abuse. You might choose a family member, friend, neighbor, or staff members at your local crisis center or shelter. Talk to them in a private, safe place. You do not need to face abuse alone.
  6. Develop a safety plan. If your partner is abusive, have a plan to protect yourself and any children in the event that you need to leave quickly. Consult various resources to help you create a comprehensive and detailed plan. 
  7. Work with a mental health therapist to gain professional support, understand the cycle of abuse, and strengthen your coping skills. Abusive relationships are extremely stressful. Get help to manage your stress and take care of yourself.
  8. Document, document, document! Save all communications and keep a record of every troublesome incident. This information may be crucial in building a case against your abuser.
  9. Self-care is vital when you are coping with relationship violence. Do your best to eat well, exercise regularly, get adequate sleep, and avoid excessive use of alcohol or drugs.
  10. Remember, you are not to blame for your abuser’s behavior!

What to do if you think someone you care about is in an abusive relationship:

If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, speak up! Sometimes we think that other people’s relationship issues are none of our business, but safety is everyone’s business. Expressing your concern will let the person know that you care. It may even save his/her life.

Talk to the person in private and let him/her know that you’re concerned. Point out the things you’ve noticed that worry you. Communicate that you’re available to talk safely and ready to help whenever he/she feels ready to take action. Be patient. Exiting an abusive relationship often takes time, including multiple attempts.

Remember, abusers are very good at controlling and manipulating their victims. People who have been subjected to relationship violence are often scared, anxious, ashamed, depressed, confused, and exhausted. They need help to get out, yet they’ve often been isolated from their family and friends. Your willingness to be proactive by picking up on the warning signs and offering support can help begin the healing process.

The Counseling and Psychological Services Center can help you understand the nature of your relationships and support you in doing what is necessary to protect yourself. We offer a confidential space in which you can share freely and get help.

Call us at 801-626-6406
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