Personal and Sexual Violence Prevention
Signs of an Abusive Relationship
Abusive relationships can manifest in different ways. If you've seen or experienced
any of the signs listed in the next steps, it is highly likely that you are in an
abusive relationship, or one that will soon escalate into an abusive stage. It is
as important to notice these things in a friend's relationship as in your own. Friends
stepping in to help prevent an abusive relationship can sometimes be the only way
the abused person can see the reality, and begin to find ways out.
- Pay attention to how your partner talks about you. Language is a powerful tool. Name calling and insulting remarks are weapons used
to abuse. Allowing yourself to internalize the insults and names may cause you to
feel worthless, and damage your self-esteem.
- See how your partner positions himself/herself in terms of others. A person unable to see their own errors or unable to admit to mistakes they have
made is emotionally unhealthy and liable to cause harm to you.
- Watch for patterns of intense possessiveness or jealousy. Anyone who gets angry or sulky when you want to hang out with friends, or who questions
you mercilessly any time you are seen talking to a member of the opposite sex is being
too possessive. Possessiveness is not healthy. You should not feel that you are being
kept away from friends and relatives, nor should you feel smothered because you cannot
go anywhere without your partner. Notice if your partner gets angry when you spend
time with others, even if it is only your own family members. Does your partner insist
that you go everywhere together and never spend time apart? Be very wary.
- Watch how s/he treats his/her parents. If your partner is rude or dismissive to his/her own parents, how do you think you
and any kids you might have in future will be treated? Remember that, right now, while
your relationship is relatively young, your partner is on his/her best behavior. How
will things be when s/he no longer feels s/he needs to impress you?
- Notice if s/he will not take no for an answer. This can occur in a range of contexts, including date days and times, clothing you
wear, food you eat, etc. An abusive person will often insist that you do things his/her
preferred way and will not back down until you agree.
- Consider whether there is pressure placed on you to change or move faster than you
are prepared to. If s/he rushes or pushes you to become more involved at a faster pace than you are
comfortable with, or demands that you change the way you are, then this is abusive.
Not respecting your need to move slowly, trying to guilt or coerce you into something
you are not ready for, or wanting you to turn into someone you are not is a sign of
someone who could potentially become abusive. Part of abuse is establishing control
over the relationship – and thereby over you. Pushing constantly for affirmation or
for more intimacy, especially early on, can be a sign of the type of insecure behavior
that can help create an abusive relationship. Signs to watch for include saying things
like, "I love you," or "You belong to me, and only me," when you have only been dating
a few months, especially when accompanied by bizarre interrogations and/or accusations
about whom you were talking to and where you have been.
- Observe the way arguments proceed. How do you disagree? Calmly, rationally, expressing your feelings and negotiating
a resolution that is satisfying to both of you? Or does every disagreement escalate
into a huge, hours-long row? Does s/he instantly begin pouting, yelling, or calling
names? This can be a clue to bad things in store. Particularly, watch for him/her
to shut down into a moody, angry sulk, only responding to your complaints with name
- Note how your partner treats alcohol and drugs. Is s/he using alcohol or drugs to excess? Does your partner become more violent,
difficult, nasty and selfish when using drugs or alcohol? Try discussing treatment
options with them. Are they willing to quit? A person who chooses to stay in a drug-
or alcohol-infused state of rage is dangerous, selfish and in need of rehabilitation.
You do not deserve to be harmed and s/he is beyond individual help at this stage and
needs medical intervention.
- Consider whether you feel as if you are constantly walking on eggshells. That is what you feel you need to do around him/her, just to be "safe." Is s/he extremely
picky – in other words, can the tiniest disagreement or criticism set him/her off?
If so, this person can become abusive in a relationship. You should feel your most
relaxed, and your most "yourself" with your partner; you should never feel you need
to be careful of what you say for fear you are going to set him/her off into a long,
tiresome, or frightening tirade. Any time you find yourself watching what you say
for fear that s/he will get angry – again – you should re-evaluate your relationship.
- Ask yourself if you are actually afraid of him/her. No matter how much you love your partner, if you are afraid of him/her, you have
a problem. Is your partner unpredictable? This is a classic sign of an abusive person.
One moment s/he seems really caring, the next s/he is threatening to kill you. If
you never know where you stand with this person, you are in an abusive relationship,
be it emotionally or physically expressed, or both.
- See physical abuse for what it is. It is never acceptable for anyone to ever physically abuse you. There are times
in most relationships where one partner or the other lashes out physically; contextually,
that may be understandable if it is rare and is never violently directed toward you
(for example, your partner gets angry enough to kick a trash can, etc.). Recognize
the difference between someone who might momentarily lose control out of frustration
and anger, and someone who simply resorts to physical violence as a means of subduing
you. Threats to hurt you are as bad as physical violence. Regard them seriously and
see them as danger signs.
- Look for combinations of the above. Just because someone does one or two of these things does not mean s/he is abusive.
But when you see several of those signals beginning to emerge and form a pattern,
it is time to end that relationship. Patterns of abuse rarely dissolve. Much more
usually, they escalate, becoming worse and more dangerous with every day that goes
Resources for Men
While individuals of both genders are perpetrators of sexual assault, the majority
of those who commit sexual assaults are men. Even so, it is important to remember
that the vast majority of men are not rapists.
There are many things men (and women) can do to help prevent sexual violence.
If you see someone in danger of being assaulted:
- Step in and offer assistance. Ask if the person needs help. NOTE: Before stepping
in, make sure to evaluate the risk. If it means putting yourself in danger, call CSO
at x2911 instead.
- Do not leave. If you remain at the scene and are a witness, the perpetrator is less
likely to do anything.
- If you know the perpetrator, tell him or her that you do not approve of what s/he
is doing. Ask him or her to leave the potential victim alone.
Be an ally:
- When you go to a party, go with a group of friends. Arrive together, check in with
each other frequently and leave together.
- Have a buddy system. Do not be afraid to let a friend know if you are worried about
- If you see someone who is intoxicated, offer to call him or her a cab.
If someone you know has been assaulted:
- Listen. Be there. Do not be judgmental.
- Be patient. Remember, it will take your friend some time to deal with the crime.
- Help to empower your friend or family member. Sexual assault is a crime that takes
away an individual's power; it is important not to compound this experience by putting
pressure on your friend or family member to do things that he or she is not ready
to do yet.
- Encourage your friend to report the rape.
- If your friend is willing to seek medical attention or report the assault, offer to
accompany them wherever they need to go (hospital, police station, campus security,
Changing the culture:
There are certain things in our culture that make sexual assault more possible. By
speaking out and educating ourselves and others, we can help to decrease the number
of sexual assaults.
- Become knowledgeable about the issue and share your knowledge with others.
- Volunteer for RAINN or your local rape crisis center and help educate your community
about preventing sexual violence.
Taken from http://www.rainn.org/get-information/sexual-assault-prevention/men-can-help
Safety Suggestions for Dating
- Stay sober! Use alcohol responsibly. Drinking alcohol decreases inhibitions and can lead to behavior
that is less rational and more impulsive. Only you are responsible for your behavior
regardless of the amount of alcohol consumed. Learn what your limits are and do not
- Do not take drugs, as they affect your judgment. Taking illegal drugs is especially dangerous because you can never be sure of the
- You are committing sexual assault if you have sex with a person who is under the influence
of alcohol or drugs, or is unconscious and not able to give permission or resist.
- Let someone close to you know where you are going and who you are going with. Let
this person know an approximate time that you can be expected to return.
- Pay attention to how your date expresses his/her feelings and emotions. How does (s)he
feel about women/men? Does (s)he feel that women/men are sex objects? Watch how (s)he
treats you and others.
- Insist that you be treated with respect. Communicate your expectations and sexual
limits, and talk to your date about them. Allow your date to express his/her expectations
and opinions, too.
- Recognize and deal with peer pressure wisely. Unfortunately, both men and women are
sometime encouraged by their peers to be sexually active in order to fit in with a
group. Do not be swayed by peer pressure – think for yourself – you are the one who
will live with the consequences.
- Rape is not a crime of passion. It is motivated by the desire to control, dominate and demean.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable, either do not accept the date, or if already on the date,
leave as quickly as possible.
- Take a self-defense course
- Sexual assault and harassment does happen and it can happen to you. If it happens to you, do not keep silent. There are people on campus who care. A
list of campus resources is available by clicking on "Help is Available." Please do not hesitate to ask for help or guidance.