Knowing the Difference Between “Just a Fight” and Abuse
The term “relationship violence” refers to verbal, written, physical, or other acts of violence, threat, or intimidation directed by an individual at another individual with whom the aggressor is involved in an intimate relationship. (An intimate relationship may be of a romantic, sexual, marital, or family nature.) The physical violence, threat, or intimidation may occur at differing intervals, may involve one or more parties to an intimate relationship, and may include varying degrees of aggression.
Signs of Relationship Violence
Relationship Violence can include any of the following behaviors or abuse, or a combination of them.
- Doesn’t let you hang out with your friends
- Calling or texting to find out where you are, who you are with and what you are doing
- Tells you how to dress or controls your appearance in other ways
- Shows up unexpectedly at your work, outside your classes, social events and/or work in order to know what you are doing.
Verbal and emotional abuse:
- Belittling you, both private and publicly
- Extreme jealousy over friends, co-workers, class-mates, family members, etc.
- Threatens physical harm
- Hair pulling
- Unwanted touching and kissing
- Forces you to have sex
- Tells you if you can or cannot use birth control
Does violence occur in same-sex relationships?
Yes. In fact, same-sex relationship violence is as common as heterosexual relationship violence. The elements of abusive relationships are similar for heterosexual and homosexual couples.
Are men ever abused by their female partners?
Yes, men can be abused by partners, regardless of gender.
Violent Relationships vs. Non-Violent Relationships
|Violent Relationship Based on Power and Control||Non-Violent Relationship Based on Mutuality and Respect|
|Emotional Abuse: Putting the other person down or making him or her feel bad. Using mind games; making the other person feel crazy.||Negotiation and Fairness: Seeking mutually satisfying resolutions to conflict, accepting change, and being willing to compromise.|
|Isolation: Controlling what the partner does, where she/he goes and who the partner sees.||Non-Threatening Behavior: Talking and acting in a way that the partner feels safe and comfortable expressing her or himself and doing things.|
|Intimidation: Using looks, actions, gestures that instill fear (e.g., using a loud voice, smashing things, destroying property).||Respect: Listening to the partner non-judgmentally. Being emotionally affirming and understanding, and valuing each others’ opinions.|
|Economic Abuse: Trying to keep the partner from being financially independent, from getting or keeping a job. Making the partner ask for money, taking the partner’s money, and/or giving the partner an allowance.||Economic Partnership: Making financial decisions together and making sure that both partners benefit from financial arrangements.|
|Using Children: Making the partner feel guilty about the children, using the children to relay messages, using visitation as a harassment tool.||Responsible Parenting: Sharing parental responsibilities and being a positive, non-violent role model for the children.|
|Making Threats: Making or carrying out threats to do something to harm the partner, e.g., threatening to commit suicide, threatening to take the children.||Honesty and Accountability: Accepting responsibility for one’s behavior, acknowledging any past use of violence, admitting being wrong, communicating openly and truthfully.|
|Using “Power-Over”: Treating the partner like a servant. Making all the “big” decisions. Acting like the “King/Queen of the castle.”||Shared Responsibility: Mutually agreeing on a fair distribution of work, and making family decisions together.|
|Sexual Abuse: Making the partner be sexual in ways the partner doesn’t want. Treating the other person like a sex object.||Trust and Support: Supporting the partner’s goals in life and respecting the partner’s right to his or her own feelings, activities, and opinions.|
- Trust your instincts–if you don’t feel safe or fear the person you are with, seek help.
- Try to have dates or social activities in groups rather than alone.
- Tell someone–it is best that another trusted and capable adult know the situation.
- Create a safe plan– create a plan in case you decide to leave the relationship or for when your partner becomes aggressive.
- You can talk to someone and get help at the NMSU Counseling Center or La Casa, the community’s local domestic violence shelter and services.
Helping a Friend
- Let your friend know that you are worried, but don’t judge them.
- Encourage them to seek help or find out for them.
- Listen to them.
- Don’t try to confront the abuse/ violent partner.
- Call the police if you witness an act of abuse.
- Reassure them of your friendship.
The Cycle of Violence
In most cases of partner violence, there is a cycle within the behaviors of the abuser.
Typically the cycle consists of three phases:
- Tension Building: Growing tension; minor incidents of abuse; “walking on eggshells”
- Explosion: Episodes of abuse
- Honeymoon Phase: Apologizing, makes promises, idealized and romantic, sharing gifts or flowers
What continues the cycle is a continued denial and minimizing of the incidents of abuse that occur.
For more information about types of abuse, learn about the Power and Control wheel.
You Have the Right…
- To be safe
- To say “yes”
- To say “no”
- To suggest activities
- To refuse any activities
- To have your values and limits respected
- To have friends and space aside from your partner
- To change your mind
- To cultivate new friendships outside your relationship with your partner
- To better yourself as a person through means of education, employment or otherwise
When you’re ready to leave…
You do have a choice to leave. The danger of leaving an abusive situation is real. Here are some ways to carefully plan and prepare a safe exit should you choose to leave:
- Have an emergency bag ready with driver’s license, social security card, birth certificates, medical cards, bank papers, immigration papers, an extra set of car keys, pre-paid phone card and any other legal documents in a safe place–even if it’s not inside your house.
- Know where all exits are in the house. Practice exit routes.
- Have a “safe place” to go to. This may be a shelter, a neighbor’s house, a family member’s house, a hotel, church, police or fire station, or anywhere you feel safe.
- Do not attempt to leave when your partner is at home.
- Do not tell anyone about your exit plan. Not even your children. Not even when things are good between you and your partner.
- Think about how and when is a good time to leave. When you feel it is safe…leave and seek help.
- Even if this may not be your first time leaving, don’t blame yourself. You have the right to live a healthy and safe life.
- Ask for help.
- Let others know that the relationship is over.
- Find out what legal steps you can take to protect yourself and property.