Violence in relationships is controlling, abusive and aggressive behaviour that occurs in romantic relationships. It can occur in the context of casual dating or serious long-term relationships including marriage and can happen in any sexual orientation relationships. It can include verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or a combination of all of them. While every person's experience of an abusive relationship will be different, there are some common patterns of controlling behaviour and abuse, which are often evident before the relationship actually becomes physically violent and should be viewed as early warning signs. Such behaviours include:
- Possessiveness - checking on their partner all the time to see where they are, what they're doing and who they're with, trying to restrict where they can go and who they can see. This may include withholding bank cards, credit cards and identity papers. It can also include threats to immigration status.
- Jealousy - accusing their partner of being unfaithful or flirting without good reason and isolating their partner from family and friends, often by rude and objectionable behaviour.
- Put downs - humiliating their partner, publicly or privately by attacking their intelligence, their looks or capabilities; constantly comparing their partner unfavourably with others, blaming the partner for all the problems in the relationship.
- Menace and threats - Yelling, sulking and deliberately damaging things that are of importance to their partner; threatening to use violence against their partners, the partner's family, friends or even a pet.
Being a victim of relationship violence is not your fault. Nothing you say, wear, or do gives anyone the right to hurt you.
- If you think you are in an abusive relationship, get help immediately. In an emergency call 911 or your local police department.
- If you're in a dating relationship that in any way feels uncomfortable, awkward, tense or even frightening, trust your feelings and get out of it. It could become, or may already be, abusive.
- Know the early warning signs that you're in a dating situation or relationship that could have the potential to become violent.
- Talk to someone you trust like a parent, sibling, counsellor or nurse. Let them know when you are afraid or need help.
- Plan for your safety. Once violence has occurred in a relationship, it is likely to re-occur. It is important to have a plan for how to protect yourself from future violence.
- Memorize important phone numbers like the people to contact or places to go in an emergency and keep spare change, calling cards, or a cell phone handy for immediate access to communication.
- Talk to someone about your feelings. Since relationship violence is traumatic and overwhelming, it is important for you to have support. If you find that family or friends are not able to understand, or cannot offer all the support you need, there are a number of campus and community agencies where trained professionals can assist you in a caring, confidential manner.
If you know someone who might be in an abusive relationship, you can help:
- Tell the person that you are worried
- Be a good listener
- Offer your friendship and support
- Ask how you can help
- Encourage your friend to seek help
- Educate yourself about relationship violence and healthy relationships
- Avoid any confrontations with the abuser. This could be dangerous for you and your friend