Responding to Relationship Violence

In many abusive relationships, physical abuse is not very frequent. However, once someone has been physically abusive, the threat of it happening again can be a powerful way to control the victim.

What can I do if I'm being abused?

It's important to know that violence/abuse is not likely to stop on its own. Episodes of violence usually become more frequent and more severe over time.

  • Talk to someone you trust. It is important to break the silence.
  • If you decide to leave the relationship, develop a safety plan. A safety plan can include asking a trusted friend for help, choosing a safe place to stay, and collecting money, emergency phone numbers, and a bag of clothes so you can leave quickly.
  • Seek help from one of the available resources.

No one deserves to be abused. The following are individual rights in relationships:

  • Express your opinions and be respected for them.
  • Pursue your own interests.
  • Have your needs be as important as your partner’s.
  • Share expenses and be free of expected pay-backs.
  • Grow as an individual.
  • Have your feelings taken seriously.
  • Have control over your own body.
  • Be responsible for your own behavior - not your partner's.
  • Change your mind.
  • Share responsibility for problem solving.
  • Expect that an apology means something.
  • Socialize with anyone whom you choose.
  • Not to be abused - physically, sexually or emotionally.
  • Break up and fall out of love with someone and not be threatened.
  • Say no to ANYTHING.

What can I do if I’m being abusive to my partner?

  • Stop using abuse of any form (physical, sexual, economic or emotional), including threats and intimidation.
  • Accept responsibility for your behavior. Remember that the use of violence is a choice and you can choose to change that behavior.
  • Do not make excuses for your violence or blame your partner for your abusive behavior.
  • Seek professional help from a qualified counselor who is knowledgeable about partner abuse.
  • Alcohol, drug use or mental health problems may make abusive situations worse but they are not excuses for abusive behavior.

How do I help a friend who is in an abusive relationship?

  • If you see someone being physically abused, call 911 immediately.
  • In many cases, the first step to safety is the knowledge that the victim is not alone and that they are not crazy. It may help your friend to know that many people experience abuse and that there are resources to get help.
  • Be supportive and respectful. Make clear statements about your friend's value and rights as a person, such as, "No one deserves to be abused."
  • Don't criticize the abuser. A victim often has conflicting feelings about the abusive partner. If you're critical of the abuser, the victim may become defensive or may shut down. Instead, you can talk about behaviors that are negative by saying something like, "I'm really concerned about how your partner treats you. Nobody has the right to put someone else down."
  • Find out about the resources that are available.
  • Learn as much as you can about dating abuse.
  • Encourage your friend to make a safety plan if they have decided to leave the relationship. Your part in a safety plan can include walking home together, checking in at certain times of the day, and having a code word your friend can use if they need immediate help.
  • Do not confront the abuser. This can result in an escalation of violence against the victim.
  • Do not slip a hotline card or any other information about abuse into someone's bag or under a door. This can also escalate the violence against the victim.
  • Do not send a voicemail message or an email message about the abuse to your friend. You do not know if the abuser is monitoring the phone or the computer.
  • Be careful for yourself. Let your friend know what you are comfortable doing and what your boundaries are. You can also get support for yourself from the available resources.