What is relationship abuse?
Relationship abuse is any behavior that someone uses against the other person in
an intimate relationship in order to exert power and control through the use of
fear, manipulation, and intimidation.
It can happen to
anyone, regardless of gender, size, and strength. It can occur in many
different ways – not just physically, but oftentimes psychologically and
relationship is different, but the one thing that is common to most abusive
dating relationships is that the violence escalates over time and becomes more
and more dangerous for the victim.
Kinds of relationship abuse
Physical abuse: any intentional use of physical force
with the intent to cause fear or injury, like hitting, shoving, biting,
strangling, kicking or using a weapon
Emotional abuse: non-physical behaviors which attempt to
threaten, diminish, control, or otherwise manipulate the other person’s senses
of self worth and independence. Some examples include constant monitoring,
humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking
Verbal abuse: a kind of emotional abuse in which some one
uses what she/he says to try to control, threaten, or otherwise manipulate the
other person’s senses of self worth and independence. Some examples include
threats, insults, shaming, and constant criticism.
Financial abuse: a kind of emotional abuse in which
someone attempts to control, restrict, or otherwise manipulate the finances and
financial freedom of the other person. Some examples include withholding money
or credit cards, restricting the other person to an allowance, and making the
other person account for every penny spent.
Sexual abuse: any action that impacts a person’s
ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual
activity occurs, including rape, coercion or restricting access to birth
People who are being abused may:
- Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner.
- Check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing.
- Receive frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner.
- Talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness.
- Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident.
- Show major personality changes (e.g. an outgoing person becomes withdrawn).
- Be depressed, anxious, or suicidal.
- Be restricted from seeing family and friends.
- Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car.
- Physical signs may include:
- Frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents”
- Frequently miss work, school, or social occasions, without explanation.
- Dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors).
1) Myth: It’s not a big deal, because the physical incidents seem pretty minor compared to what I’ve heard about.
Fact: There’s no such thing as a “minor” form of physical abuse. Severe injury can be sustained from even the seemingly most “trivial” or “minor” of incidents. Even if the physical abuse seems comparably inconsequential, in the long term, unseen damage leaves lasting scars and necessitates that you get help.
2) Myth: It’s not a big deal, because it’s only happened one or two times during the relationship.
Fact: If it’s happened once, it’s likely that it will happen again. Studies indicate that if your spouse/partner has injured you once, it is likely he will continue to physically assault you.
3) Myth: I’m in control in my relationship, because I can stop the physical assaults by becoming passive.
Fact: Giving up your freedom and right to express yourself in order to avoid further physical assault doesn’t give you a control, it only further takes away your control.
4) Myth: My relationship isn’t abusive because there hasn’t been any physical violence.
Fact: Emotional and verbal assault can be just as dangerous, damaging, and frightening as physical abuse. This can be as equally frightening and is often more confusing to try to understand.
5) Myth: Guys only play the role of the abuser in a relationship, they’re never the victim.
Fact: Both men and women can –and do –act as the abuse perpetrator or victim. Although it’s more common for women to be the victim of relationship abuse, a significant proportion of men are also victimized by relationship abuse.
1) I think I’m an abusive relationship, but I don’t feel comfortable talking to a counselor. What should I do?
Being in an abusive relationship is not only potentially dangerous, but in the long term can cause physical, mental, and/or emotional damage that’s difficult to recover from. No one ever deserves to be treated without respect for their self-worth. It’s not okay for you to just sit back and “take it.” If you’re in danger, don’t hesitate to contact RUPD at x 6000 immediately. If you’re not in immediate danger, consider talking with someone from the Counseling Center. If you don’t feel comfortable talking with a counselor, consider talking with someone you trust, like a close friend, member of the college personnel team, or RHA, about what’s going on.
2) I think my relationship shows signs of being abusive, or potentially abusive, but it’s not to the point where I feel the need to end things or seek help. What should I do?
There is no such thing as “minor” abuse. No one ever deserves to be treated without respect for their self-worth and dignity. It’s not okay for you to have to just “sit back and take it.” If you’re relationship is starting to show signs of abuse, you need to seek help. Relationship violence may start small, but it is prone to escalate, dangerously, if it’s continually allowed to happen. Contact RUPD if you feel that you’re in immediate danger. If you don’t feel that you’re in immediate physical danger, consider talking with someone from the Counseling Center about safe ways to approach the issue. If you don’t feel comfortable talking with a counselor, consider talking with someone you trust, like a close friend, member of the college personnel team, or RHA, about what’s going on.
3) I think one of my friends is in an abusive relationship. What should I do?
Having a conversation with a friend about your concerns can be tough. If you feel that your friend’s in danger, don’t hesitate to call RUPD at x6000 immediately. For tips on ways to approach having an effective conversation with a friend about your concerns, check out the “Get Help for a Friend” link. If your friend still refuses to get help or get out of an abusive relationship, then consider talking with someone from the Counseling Center, or someone you trust, like a member of the college personnel team.
4) I just witnessed an abusive scene from someone else’s relationship, and I’m upset about it. What should I do?
If you just witnessed an instance of relationship violence, don’t hesitate to contact RUPD at 713-348-6000 immediately. For more preventative measures on safe ways to intervene, check out check out our tips for ways to help a friend in danger of sexual harassment or assault.
5) I think I’m in an abusive relationship. What should I do?
Realize that if a relationship is threatening your safety or wellbeing, you can leave. No one deserves to have their self worth threatened, jeopardized, or diminished. If getting out of the relationship is necessary for your personal health and safety, then check out the following tips for ways to get out of the relationship safely in the “Coping with Relationship Abuse” section of this page. If you are in immediate danger, don’t hesitate to contact RUPD at 713-348-6000 immediately.
6) I think I might be considered an “abuser” in my relationship. What should I do?
If a relationship threatens your or the other person’s safety or wellbeing, then it’s unsafe and unhealthy to continue. No one deserves to have their self worth threatened, jeopardized, or diminished. If you think you’ve contributed to part or all of the abuse in a relationship, then you need to talk to someone.
Coping with relationship abuse
If you’re in immediate
danger, don't hesitate to call RUPD.
Rice is here to help. Rice cares about students’ wellbeing
and safety. Rice will protect your privacy, guard your safety, and pursue
justice in the case of relationship abuse if you choose to contact us. We’re
here to ensure that you can live and learn in a safe educational environment.
- Talk to someone – be open and honest about your
relationship worries/issues with someone you trust, like a family member, close
friend, or member of the college personnel team, such as a college master or
- Break up with the other person safely – don’t risk your safety for the sake of
“break-up courtesy”. If you feel like your safety will be jeopardized by
breaking up with them in person, then do it over the phone, or with a friend
- Get out of the relationship – realize that if a relationship is
threatening your safety or wellbeing, you can leave. No one deserves to have
their self worth threatened, jeopardized, or diminished. If getting out of the
relationship is necessary for your personal health and safety, then:
- Create a safety plan - so that you know ahead of time how to avoid
dangerous situations and/or how to get out of them.
- Create an emergency kit – if getting out of the relationship, or
avoiding a dangerous situation, means having to physically escape a living
situation, then make sure you’ve packed your cellphone, ID information, keys,
money, and clothes.
- Be aware of the area – know places where you can easily contact
campus police, class and campus routes that let you avoid your abuser, etc.
- Have a code word – so that if you’re feeling unsafe, or
your abuser’s nearby, you can alert
friends and/or hallmates
- Remind yourself that you’re leaving for
your own safety. List
other reasons why leaving the relationship is better for your emotional,
physical, and mental wellbeing.
- Take care of yourself – make sure that you’re maintaining
healthy habits to ensure that other aspects of your wellbeing are intact. Try
to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, exercise regularly, and eat a
balanced diet. (link)
- Seek professional help – suffering an abusive relationship can
take a huge emotional toll, and it may be difficult to process or understand
everything that’s happened. Consider talking with a counselor from theCounseling Center to figure out how you can better take care of
yourself, understand and avoid future relationship abuse, and get back on track.
- Know your rights – know your legal rights if you want to
file a restraining order or press charges against the other person. Contact Student Judicial Programs for more information.
“Dating Violence: The basics.” Thesafespace.org.
“Dating Violence 101.” Breakthecycle.org. http://www.breakthecycle.org/dating-violence-101
“Domestic Violence and Abuse.” Helpguide.org. http://www.helpguide.org/mental/domestic_violence_abuse_types_signs_causes_effects.htm
“Domestic Violence against women: recognize patterns, seek help.” Mayoclinic.com
“How to Get Out of an Abuse Relationship.” The Safe Space.org. http://www.thesafespace.org/stay-safe/need-help/how-can-i-get-out-of-my-abusive-relationship/
“What is Emotional Abuse?” Eqi.org http://eqi.org/eabuse1.htm#What%20is%20Emotional%20Abuse?