Health and Wellness
What is Relationship Violence?
Relationship violence, Domestic violence and Dating violence
These terms define a relationship where there is a pattern of controlling and coercive behaviors that include physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Relationship violence happens to people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, classes, ages and abilities.
Victims and Survivors
People who have experienced sexual violence may identify as victims or survivors depending on where they are in the healing process. This term can have negative connotations by misrepresenting someone as passive, defeated and powerless. Because victims of sexual violence exhibit incredible strength, resiliency and ability to heal, we prefer to use the word survivor.
Survivor is a term that represents strength, empowerment, resiliency, healing and growth that each victim experiences in a unique way. We aim to help “victims” make the transition to “survivors” by regaining control of their lives and moving forward with the healing process.
Warning Signs of Relationship Violence
Sometimes a person that seems like a kind and loving partner can turn into someone who hurts, controls or scares you. Relationship violence is a pattern of behaviors that a person uses to maintain power and control over another person. These behaviors include intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, minimizing, denying, blaming, using children, using privilege, economic abuse, coercion and threats. At first, the behaviors may seem like normal aspects of a relationship but then they can escalate over time.
Does your partner?
- Put you down, berate or belittle you. Call you stupid, ugly, or saying things like “no one else would love you, or put up with you like I do”.
- Control who you see and talk to. Prevent you from seeing friends, family or going places or talking to them on phone.
- Hit, push, slap or throw things at you.
- Harass, stalk or spy on you.
- Make all of the decisions in your relationship – what to do when you are together, when you are alone and decisions about sex and intimacy.
- Force or manipulate you to engage in sexual activity.
- Make you feel unsafe or on edge.
- Threaten to hurt themselves if you leave. Say that they can’t live without you and they will kill themselves or cut themselves if you leave.
- Threaten to hurt you emotionally and or physically. Blackmail or threaten to stalk you or saying things like “I’d kill you if you left me”.
Cycle of Violence
There are many reasons why it is difficult for survivors to end or leave a relationship. The pattern of behaviors often occur in a cycle that adds to the survivor’s confusion, fear and isolation.
Phase 1 – Tension building phase
This phase is also called “the calm before the storm” starting off calm but building tension and stress slowly. The perpetrator may pick fights, act jealous and possessive, criticize or threaten, act moody and unpredictable. The survivor tries to keep things peaceful by reasoning, calming and trying to appease the perpetrator. The survivor often keeps silent but starts to feel afraid and anxious.
Phase 2 – Crisis or violence phase
This phase consists of some incident of verbal abuse, sexual assault, physical assault, destruction of property or increased control or restraint of partner. Sometimes people outside the relationship, like family or police, find out that something is going on. Or the incident may go undetected by others and the survivor and perpetrator may be able to hide it. The survivor experiences fear and shock, trying to protect themselves by doing what is necessary to survive.
Phase 3 – Calmer or honeymoon phase
This phase follows the incident in phase 2 and is when the perpetrator is likely to ask for forgiveness for the abuse, promise to get help or never do it again and show regret with gifts and affection. The perpetrator minimizes or denies the abuse. At the same time, the survivor may feel loved, hopeful that it won’t happen again and decide to forgive. The survivor may blame themselves, feel manipulated, and also minimize and deny the abuse. This phase can last for any amount of time before the cycle is back to phase 1, with tension building again.
Washington State Laws for Domestic Violence
The law in Washington state considers domestic violence to occur between “family or household members” that include people who have a relationship such as dating, roommates, spouses, a child in common or family relations by blood or marriage.
There are many crimes that can be categorized as domestic violence when they happen between people who have a relationship. They include but are not limited to: assault, reckless endangerment, coercion, burglary, trespass, kidnapping, rape and stalking.
For more complete information see the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Title 10 Chapter 10 Washington Criminal Code.
The law is gender neutral and recognizes that domestic violence occurs between members of the same or opposite sex.
Getting Help If You Are In a Relationship That Is Controlling or Coercive
Believe in yourself
Remember that no matter what the circumstances, you are not to blame for what is happening to you. Give yourself permission to do what you need to do to take care of yourself.
Trust your instincts. Don’t downplay the danger. If you feel unsafe, you probably are. Take threats seriously. In general, danger is higher when the perpetrator talks about suicide or murder, or when you are trying to leave or end a relationship.
Tell someone you trust for support
This could be anyone, so think about who would be the most supportive. This person may be a good listener or be able to provide resources and options.
Contact SARIS for support, advocacy and resources
The SARIS specialist listens and supports all students by providing a confidential place to discuss sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking and related issues. The SARIS specialist can assist you in reporting to the police and in exploring and arranging for counseling, academic help or changes in living situations.
Develop a safety plan
This includes things like deciding who you can call when you need help, changing your daily routine, arranging for a place to stay and using the buddy system. The SARIS Specialist or UW Police Department Crime Victim Advocate can help you create a safety plan.
Report to the police
If you decide to report to the police, you can call the UW Police Department and the police officer will meet you in a location of your choice. You can also contact SARIS to review your reporting options. It is your decision to file a report. The perpetrator may have broken other laws by doing things like stealing or destroying your property. However, if you decide to file a report, it would be advantageous to your case to do this as soon as possible.
Seek supportive counseling
You may want help dealing with the complex feelings that this relationship has caused. The Counseling Center and Hall Health Mental Health are resources on campus. SARIS can also provide referrals to off-campus community services.
Investigate other reporting options
Sexual assault, sexual harassment, physical abuse and threats are violations of the UW Student Conduct Code. Community Standards and Student Conduct (CSSC) can help you make a formal report and determine if the University can take action for these behaviors. You may want to talk to a lawyer or legal advocate about civil lawsuits and other options.
Consider a protection order
Protection orders are civil court orders that can help protect a victim from a perpetrator by ordering someone to stop doing threatening acts, to stay away from the places you go and to stop contacting you. There are different types of protection orders depending on the nature of the violence or harassment and the relationship between people.
Keep evidence of the stalking
If you are being stalked, it can be helpful to keep a log of the incidents or threats. When the stalker follows you or contacts you, write down the time, date and place. Keep e-mails, phone messages, texts, letters or notes. Photograph anything of yours the stalker damages and any injuries the stalker causes. Ask witnesses to write down what they saw.
- Community Standards and Student Conduct (CSSC)
- Counseling Center
- Hall Health
- UW Police Department
- Title IX Office
- Asian Counseling & Referral Service
- API Chaya
- Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services
- Consejo Counseling & Referral Service for the Latino community
- Crisis Clinic – 24-hour crisis line and community resource directory 866-4CRISIS
- Harborview Center for Sexual Assault & Traumatic Stress (HCSATS)
- King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC) – 24-hour crisis line 888-99-VOICE
- New Beginnings
- Northwest Network for Bi, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse
- Legal Voice
- Sexual Violence Law Center