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Relationship Violence

Learn about relationship violence and how to find help for yourself or a friend.

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What is relationship violence?

Relationship violence (also known as dating violence or domestic violence) occurs when a person displays a pattern of abusive behaviors designed to assert power and control over a current or former partner. This can include physical, emotional, psychological, economic, or sexual abuse, or a combination of these.

Violence can happen to anyone no matter their race, gender, age, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. 

LGBT individuals can also experience relationship violence. A particular control tactic in LGBT relationships is threatening to “out” a partner to his/her family, friends, or workplace.

Violence affects many people of different socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. It can happen to couples who are dating, living together, or married, and to partners who no longer maintain a relationship.

It's a common belief that violence only includes physical abuse. Although physical violence can happen, it's important to know that relationship violence can include any of the following:

  • Intimidation
  • Physical abuse
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Excessively jealous and possessive behavior
  • Refusing access to phones, money, or transportation
  • Forcing sexual acts
  • Embarrassing you with put-downs and criticisms

Are you in an abusive relationship?

Consider the following questions:

  • Does your partner control what you do, who you see or talk to, or where you go?
  • Does your partner repeatedly read or check up on your text messages, recent calls, social media accounts?
  • Do you feel isolated from your friends or family in your relationship?
  • Does your partner make all decisions?
  • Do you ever hold back your feelings in fear of how your partner may react?
  • Does your partner threaten to hurt you, your kids, or people you care about?
  • Does it feel easier to just go along with what your partner wants, rather than make your own decisions?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may be in an abusive relationship. Trust your instincts: In a healthy relationship, you should never have to be afraid of your partner.

Find help

If you're in immediate danger, call 911 immediately.

If you're experiencing relationship violence, you are not alone. Help is always available to you.

If you're a UC San Diego student (undergraduate, graduate, or international), staff or faculty, call CARE at the Sexual Assault Resource Cente at 858-534-5793, and we can provide you with confidential* and comprehensive support through counseling and safety planning.

If you're a relative or friend of someone who might be experiencing relationship violence, you are welcome to call our office and find out what resources are available for you, too. You'll need support so you can continue to help your loved one.

*All communications with users of CARE services are privileged and confidential under California Evidence Code Sections 1010-1027, 1035.2 and 1037.2. Accordingly, employees in the CARE Office are not mandatory reporters under Title IX or the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.

Myths and facts about relationship violence

Myth: Relationship violence only affects married couples.

Fact: Relationship violence can affect anyone, no matter their age or relationship status. According to the National Violence against Women Survey, 1 out of 4 U.S. women have been physically assaulted or raped by an intimate partner; 1 out of every 14 U.S. men reported such an experience.1

One study found that girls and women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rates of physical abuse in their relationships.2 In a survey for college students, 32% of students report dating violence by a previous partner, and 21% report violence by a current partner.3

Myth: Relationship violence incidents are one-time, isolated occurrences.

Fact: Relationship violence is intentional and often repetitive. Abusers use violence to assert power and control over their partner.

Often, perpetrators' violent behavior escalates as the relationship goes on. Two-thirds of women physically assaulted by an intimate partner experienced multiple incidents, and half of all women raped by their partners reported victimization by the same partner 2-9 times. 1

Myth: If abuse is happening, the victim can always leave the relationship.

Fact: There are many reasons why victims don't leave their abusers. These can include: fear of the perpetrator, religious or social stigma, self-blame, minimization, or loyalty to their partner.

Many times, a victim doesn't feel safe or secure enough to leave on their own. Victims of relationship violence may feel as though they could not survive on their own if they leave their partner. Also, abusers might threaten to hurt themselves, their partner, or their children if their partner leaves.

1 Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (2000). Extent, nature, and consequences of intimate partner violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey (NCJRS Publication No. 181867). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

2 Fisher, B.S., Cullen, F.T., Turner, M.G., (2000). “The Sexual Victimization of College Women.” Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice/Bureau of Justice Statistics.

3 C. Sellers and M. Bromley, “Violent Behavior in College Student Dating Relationships,” Journal of Contemporary Justice, (1996).