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Relationship Abuse, Dating Violence and Domestic Violence

Relationship Abuse, dating violence, and domestic violence are characterized by  a pattern of coercive tactics that one person uses to gain or maintain power and control over another. Abuse can occur in marriage, dating relationships (between previous or current partners), and amongst co-habitating couples. 

An abusive relationship means more than being hit by the person who claims to love or care about you. Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological  and consists of actions or threats of actions meant to influence and intimidate another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten,  terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone. When someone uses abuse and violence against a partner, it is always part of a larger pattern to try to control her/him.

Characteristics of Relationship Abuse

Abusive behaviors occur along a continuum of violence. One form of abuse rarely happens in isolation and abusive behaviors tend to escalate in frequency and severity over time.  Abusive behaviors build upon one another, forming patterns and creating situations in which the mere threat of abuse can have devastating, numbing effects on the abused partner.

This sense of learned fear is often seen in a relationship where there has been a history of verbal and emotional abuse, along with some physical abuse. Subsequent verbal threats to use physical abuse are sufficient to remind the victim of prior violence and to control the situation.

Abusive behaviors are planned and repeated, with the intent of controlling the relationship. There is a distinction between a one time verbal offense (yelling at one's partner during an argument), and behaviors that are repeated. However, it is important to realize that a "one time offense" that leaves a partner feeling afraid or fearful of future abuse can be considered abusive.

If you believe that you are a victim of relationship abuse, dating violence, or domestic violence you are not alone. Abuse can occur to anyone, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, class or profession. There is no typical victim and it is often difficult to recognize abusive characteristics in perpetrators. 

The following charts show the various types of abusive behaviors what may occur in a relationship. In contrast the Equality Wheel demonstrates the characteristics of healthy relationships based on respect, equality, choice, and accountability. 

Please contact the SARA office at 650-721-4211 for more information about relationship abuse, dating violence, domestic violence, safety planning and other resources.