Also called Dating/Partner Violence or Intimate Partner Violence
Please click on any of the subject headings below for information about relationship voilence.
The Cycle of Violence
Are You In An Abusive Relationship?
The Wheel of Violence
Reasons People Stay
Dating/Partner Violence is the verbal, physical, and/or sexual abuse of one partner by the other, in an intimate relationship, which has the potential of developing into a long lasting relationship.
Dating/partner violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. Although both men and women can be abused, most victims are women. Children in homes where there is violence are more likely to be abused and/or neglected. Most children in these homes are aware of the violence. Even if a child is not physically harmed, he/she may have emotional and behavior problems.
Abusive partners are not easy to spot. They often have low self-esteem and do not take responsibility for their actions. They may even blame the victim for causing the violence. It is not uncommon for abusive partners to try to hide the abuse by causing injuries that can be hidden and do not cause the need for a doctor.
Abuse is not an accident. It does not happen because someone was stressed out, drinking, or using drugs. Abuse is an intentional act that one person uses in a relationship to control the other. Abusive partners have learned to abuse so that they can get what they want. It is important to remember that although in most cases, men abuse female victims, women can also be the abusers and men can be victims.
-Adapted from www.contactdallas.org/domestic_abuse.php
Types of Dating/Partner Violence
Physical abuse - may involve pushing, shoving, hitting, choking, confining, or assaulting with an object or weapon.
Emotional/psychological abuse - may involve intimidation, threats, humiliation, insults, pressure, destruction of property, control over a partner’s movements, isolation.
Sexual abuse - may involve sexual relations without consent, unwanted sexual touching or pressure to engage in humiliating or degrading sexual activity.
Controlling all of the victim's money, shelter, time, food, etc.
Threats of any of the above, including physical or sexual abuse; the use of words, gestures, weapons, or other means to communicate the intent to cause harm.
- Women ages 16-24 experienced the highest per capita rates of intimate violence; 20 per 1,000 (U.S. Dept. of Justice, 2000).
- 9% of murder victims in 2002 were killed by their spouse or intimate partner. 78% of those victims were female. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2003).
- Of the women who reported being raped and/or physically assaulted since the age of 18, three-quarters were victimized by a current or former husband, cohabiting partner, date or boyfriend (National Institute Of Justice and U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 1998).
- 2 out of 3 violent crimes against women are committed by someone that the victim knows (U.S. Dept. of Justice, 2000)
Violence between intimates and dating partners is often cyclical. This cycle can be characterized by three distinct stages:
The Tension Building Stage – at this stage the tension is building and the abuser becomes increasingly agitated and edgy, building up to an explosion.
The Explosion Stage – The abuser verbally, physically, and/or sexually abuses the victim. Generally the attack is worse than the abuse inflicted during the tension building stage.
Honeymoon Stage – (also known as the “making up stage”) this stage follows the explosion stage and is characterized by romance and the abuser’s apologies and promises never to do it again. The behavior exhibited by the abuser during this stage often keeps the relationship together. The victim believes that the abuser is kind and loving and will not be violent again. (At the end of this stage, tension building begins once again.)
- Does your partner continually criticize what you wear, what you say, how you act, and how you look?
- Does your partner call you insulting and degrading names?
- Do you feel like you need to ask permission to go out and see your family and friends?
- Does your partner harass you and interrogate you about where you were and whom you were with?
- Are you always being accused of being unfaithful?
- Has your partner threatened to hurt you or someone you love if you leave?
- Does your partner force you to have sex?
- Does your partner physically assault you and then apologize profusely?
At the center of the wheel of violence are power and control. Elements used to gain this power and control include coercion and threats, intimidation, verbal attacks, isolation, using loved ones, minimizing, denying, and blaming, abusing authority, and economic control.
In an abusive situation, the victim’s decision to leave is often difficult as well as dangerous. There are many barriers in the way of someone who is trying to leave an abusive relationship.
Some of the reasons it can be difficult to leave may be:
Fear for safety
- Fear of what the abusive partner will do when he/she finds out that the victim has left.
- Fear that the abusive partner may carry out a threat to harm or kill the victim, their children, or others.
- Fear that the partner will carry out a suicide threat if the victim leaves.
Fear of isolation
- Fear of being alone, that no one will understand or help the victim.
- Fear of being rejected by family and friends
- If in a same sex relationship, the victim may fear he/she will be “outed” or that no one will believe them.
Promises from the abuser
- The victim believes that things will get better.
- The victim believes that no one else will love them.
Pressures from cultural or religious communities
- The victim wants to try to keep the family together and live up to their religious commitment to remain with their partner.
Pressure from family and friends to stay
- The victim feels ashamed, embarrassed, and humiliated and they don’t want anyone to know what is happening.
- Their friends and family point out many reasons to stay, such as “your partner is a good provider,” you would be tearing your family apart,” or “it’s your obligation to keep the partnership together.”
- The victim believes that others will think he/she is stupid for staying as long as they have.
- The victim is financially dependent on their partner for shelter, food, and other necessities and they don’t know how they would cope alone.
- The victim fears they may lose their children in a custody battle.
- The victim is worried about going to court and having to tell what has happened.
- It is important to remember that while the list of barriers may seem overwhelming, many women have been able to leave abusive relationships and go on to have safe, healthy, happy, and fulfilling lives for themselves and their children. The key to doing so is for the victim to believe that they deserve a life free from violence and abuse.
- Believe in yourself and do not second-guess your feelings.
- Know that you are not alone. There are over 2 million reports of dating/domestic violence every year.
- Ask a friend, family member, professor, or crisis center for help.
- If you are physically hurt – seek medical attention.
- Getting help is the best thing you can do for yourself and your health.
- Remember, what happened to you is not your fault.
- Know that you have legal choices. Call your local crisis center or police department to learn about your choices.
How to Help
- Believe the person. She/he needs you to be supportive and understanding.
- Do not ask too much. She/he may feel uncomfortable about involving others. The individual will open up when she/he is ready.
- Be supportive by listening or gathering information. She/he may appreciate phone numbers, pamphlets, legal documentation, or literature on abuse.
Resources for Help
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233
Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-838-VADV (8238)
Ciolence Action Alliance 1-434-979-9002
Virginia Crime Assistance Info Line 1-888-887-3418
Fairfax County Domestic Violence Shelter 703-435-4940
Fairfax County Victim Assistance Network 703-360-7273
GMU Sexual Assault Services 703-993-9999, 24-Hour cell phone 703-380-1434