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Relationship Violence

Approximately one in five college students have reported at least one incidence of abuse in their dating relationships.

Oftentimes alcohol is involved in partner violence situations, and most often the violence occurs after the couple has become more seriously involved, rather than in the early, more casual stages of dating.

Relationship violence can exist in a dating relationship, a marriage, or even a friendship. It can occur in any type of relationship regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Relationship violence is a problem we can solve; educate yourself on relationship violence and reach out to someone who needs your friendship and support.

Relationship violence is not an argument, an anger management problem, or a relationship with normal "ups and downs." It is a pattern of violent or coercive behavior involving physical, verbal, sexual, or emotional abuse.

What is Relationship Violence?

Relationship violence can exist in a dating relationship, a marriage, between friends and even between room-mates. It can occur in any type of relationship regardless of sexual orientation, ethnicity, social class or income level.

Violence in a relationship can be verbal, emotional, sexual or physical. Oftentimes violence begins with verbal violence and progresses to more extreme forms of violence.

In a violent or abusive relationship one partner feels the need to be in control and uses a variety of tactics to maintain this control.

Oftentimes verbal violence is ignored early in a relationship. Be aware that in many cases a person who uses verbal violence will eventually progress to the use of physical violence. Many people who are involved in an abusive/violent relationship tend to minimize the violence or fail to recognize what is happening. It is important to recognize early indicators of violence and to prioritize you own safety. Remember, relationship violence is all about control.

Examples of relationship violence include:

Verbal Abuse: Verbal abuse often leads to a loss of self-esteem, and includes:

  • Name calling
  • Embarrassing their partner in public or in front of friends
  • Put downs – often in front of others
  • Continually criticizing, often in public
  • Making threats, threatening one’s safety

Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse often results in feelings of shame and loss of     self-esteem. Examples include:

  • Ignoring the feelings of one’s partner
  • Isolating the individual from friends and family; demanding all time be spent with them
  • Withholding affection and approval as punishment
  • Making all decisions in the relationship
  • Ridiculing beliefs, values, heritage, appearance, etc.
  • Controlling their partner’s every move – how they dress, where they go, who they can spend time with, who they talk to, etc.,
  • Extreme jealousy and accusations of infidelity
  • Keeping tables on the individual – asking where they have been and with whom
  • Blaming their partner for everything that happens, avoiding personal responsibility

Sexual Abuse: Examples include:

  • Calling their partner sexually derogatory names
  • Unwanted or uncomfortable touching
  • Pressuring their partner to perform sexual acts that make them uncomfortable
  • Forced sex

Physical Abuse: This is probably the form of abuse that most people are familiar with. It includes:

  • Preventing their partner from leaving
  • Throwing objects
  • Pushing, shoving, hair-pulling
  • Scratching, hitting, kicking
  • Threatening, or using weapons

Many violent relationships follow a pattern, often referred to as the Cycle of Violence.

Cycle of Violence

Violence in a relationship often follows a predictable cycle that repeats itself continually. Over time, couples pass through the cycle more quickly and the level of violence increases. This cycle consists of three stages:

Phase I: Tension Building Phase

  • Tension and stress is building; you can feel it, it’s like “walking on eggshells”.
  • Increased anger, blaming and arguing; more tension/stress in the relationship
  • May involve minor instances of physical abuse
  • The pattern becomes familiar over time and the victim becomes frightened, knowing what will happen if they do not comply.

Phase progresses more quickly as this cycle is repeated.

Phase II: Abusive Behavior

Abusive partner loses desire or ability to control their anger; abuse/violence relieves stress that has been building

  • An act of violence occurs
  • Victim is often very fearful; feels helpless and depressed

Phase III: “Honeymoon Period”

  • A period of relative calm
  • Abuser is sorry, promises it will never happen again; or,
  • Abuser denies, ignores or minimizes the incident of violence; blames the victim for the abuse – “if you would just _____”, “it’s your fault, you make me so angry”.
  • Victim wants to believe the promises that “it will never happen again . . .”

Then, Phase I begins again . . . This cycle of violence continues, and over time, the cycle progresses more quickly, and the level of violence tends to increase. Many people may question why an individual stays in a violent relationship. There are many reasons why people stay (link to Why Do They Stay).   Help is needed to break this cycle of violence. (link to Resources Available)

Why Do They Stay?

People often question why individuals remain in an abusive relationship. There are many reasons why it may be difficult to get out of a violent relationship.

  • Some people confuse control and jealousy for love. “If they didn’t love me so much they wouldn’t care where I was/what I wear/who I am with …”
  • The person loves the abuser and continues to hope that they can change the abusive partner. They really want to believe the promises that it will never happen again. There are positive attributes which attracted them to their partner in the beginning of the relationship and they really want to hold onto those.
  • Peer pressure – pressure to conform to a norm that says you are nobody unless you are in a relationship.
  • The person believes the abuser and feels the abuse is entirely their fault; they believe if they could just “do better, get it right”, etc., the violence would end.
  • Fear – the violent partner may have threatened to kill them if they leave (“If I can’t have you, nobody will”). Or, the violent partner threatens to harm themselves if their partner leaves.
  • Shame – being embarrassed and afraid to tell family and friends about the violence.
  • Self-esteem is severely damaged – after a history of abuse the victim begins to believe the negative things the abuser is saying, and no longer values themselves or views themselves as capable or desirable.
  • Violence is only part of a relationship, not all of it. Victims may still love the “good side” of their partner.

Helping a Friend in an Abusive Relationship

Know that most university faculty and staff must report incidents of relationship violence and sexual assault to the Office of Equal Opportunity, Ethics and Access for investigation. The Sexual Assault Prevention and Survivor Services Program and Student Counseling Services counselors are not required to report. The university is required to follow up on all incidents of relationship violence and sexual assault and may investigate to support its’ efforts to provide a safe and non-discriminatory environment for all students. The survivor determines his/her level of participation in this process.

It is very difficult to talk about being in an abusive relationship. Many individuals do not view their relationship as abusive and maintain the hope that their partner will change. Many are ashamed and embarrassed and the abusive partner often seeks to isolate them from their friends and family, thereby cutting off sources of support. Seeing a friend or loved one in an unhealthy relationship will likely create many emotions in you. Attempting to take charge of the situation or make decisions for your friend, will not help. You may struggle with understanding how your friend/family member could allow themselves to be hurt and question how they could remain in such an abusive/unhealthy relationship.   Support, patience and understanding are needed.

Guidelines for Helping:

  • Listen. If the survivor wants to talk allow them to talk.
  • Express your concern; focus on specifics that you have observed – changes in behavior, withdrawal from friends/family, increasing anxiety or depression, bruising, etc. Express your concern for their safety and well-being.
  • Understand that victims of abuse often suffer from a loss of self-esteem and feel helpless and worthless; they feel powerless to act and are fearful of leaving the relationship. There are typically multiple attempts to leave an unhealthy relationship before one is able to terminate this relationship.
  • Know that safety is a very real concern. The most dangerous time for the abused partner is when they have left the relationship. Abusive relationships are about control and when the abusive partner feels they have lost control, their level of violence may escalate.
  • Know that assistance with safety planning is critical. Encourage use of available resources (link) to make plans for safely leaving an abusive relationship.
  • Make them aware of resources and offer assistance in accessing needed services. Actively encourage the abused partner to seek services.
  • Ask them how you can help.
  • Be aware of your own feelings and concerns. Seek out the support of others in dealing with your own feelings about your friend’s experience.

University Process

Know that the University is required to follow up on all incidents of relationship violence and/or sexual assault and may investigate to support the University’s efforts to provide a safe and non-discriminatory environment for all students. Most University faculty and staff must reports incidents of relationship violence and/or sexual assault to the University’s Office of Equal Opportunity, Ethics and Access (OEOEA) for investigation. The survivor determines his/her level of involvement in this process. The Sexual Assault Prevention and Survivor Services staff and counselors are not required to report.

The following process will be followed when the university receives information on an allegation of relationship violence and/or sexual assault:

  1. When the University becomes aware of an alleged sexual misconduct or relationship violence incident the University will provide the individual who allegedly experienced this incident, (Reporting Party) or the person who brought the incident forward, with information regarding support services and reporting avenues.
  2. The allegation will be reviewed by appropriate University officials to determine the next steps and assess whether any interim action is necessary. The Reporting Party will be offered the opportunity to participate in the review and investigation process. If the Reporting Party does not respond to the University’s request for participation, or requests that the complaint not be pursued, the University will review the request and all information available. The University will make a determination regarding the need to investigate further by balancing the Reporting Party’s interests and the University’s commitment to supporting a Reporting Party driven process, with the University’s equally strong commitment to ensuring a safe community. The University may proceed with investigation without a Reporting Party’s involvement, although the University’s response may be severely limited.
  3. The University’s investigation procedures will ensure that the allegation of sexual misconduct/relationship violence is handled promptly and effectively in a manner that is procedurally fair to all parties. Both parties will be given an opportunity to provide input and information during the investigation process. After the investigation is concluded, the Investigator will report both to OEOEA (in regards to potential violation(s) of Title IX) and Community Rights and Responsibilities (in regards to possible violation(s) of the Code of Student Conduct).
  4. Based on the investigative report, if either office has sufficient information to believe a violation occurred, a Charge letter will be issued.
  5. For specific procedures related to an informal resolution meeting and/or hearing please reference the following:
    • Information on procedures related to Code Charges.       
    • OEOEA policies and procedures related to alleged violations of the Equal Opportunity/Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy Title IX (Code Section V.b.5). Sanctions and interventions are issued when a student is found responsible for a Code violation. Sanctions are designed to eliminate the misconduct, prevent its recurrence, educate the student, and remedy its effects. Some behavior is so harmful to the University community or so detrimental to the educational environment that it may require removal from University activities or the University.
  6. Appeals may be filed by either part for any of the following reasons:
    • Proper procedures were not followed.
    • Unsupported conclusion.
    • The sanction/intervention was insufficient or excessive relative to the violation.
    • There is new information that was not reasonably available at the time of the investigation.

Note: Title IX (Code Charge V.b.5) violations ONLY are appealed to the President. Appeal procedures are available at: http://equalopportunityillinoisstate.edu/complaint/ (link)

Any other Code violation and/or all sanctions are appealable to the Student Appeals Board 

Resources for Victims of Relationship Violence

Know that most university faculty and staff must report incidents of relationship violence and sexual assault to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Ethics and Access for investigation. The Sexual Assault Prevention and Survivor Services program and Student Counseling Services staff are not required to report. The university is required to follow up on all incidents of sexual assault and relationship violence and may investigate to support the university’s efforts to provide a safe and non-discriminatory environment for all students. The survivor determines his/her level of participation in this process.


  • Sexual Assault Prevention and Survivor Services Coordinator at (309) 438-7948. This individual is located in Student Counseling Services and is available to provide support, assessment, referral and information on additional resources. Immediate crisis counseling may be provided, in addition to arranging for a variety of needed services. Follow up services, counseling and ongoing support are also provided. This individual can accompany survivors to other appointments and can assist with filing a report if the survivor chooses to do so. This individual is not required to report incidents of sexual assault and/or relationship violence to the university.
  • Student Health Services at (309) 438-2778. A variety of health care services are provided, including: examinations, treatments, urgent care, pregnancy testing, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, emergency contraception and follow up care for any injuries sustained during an assault. http://shs.illinoisstate.edu/
  • Student Counseling Services at (309) 438-3655. Counseling staff provide a full range of confidential services related to personal concerns, including individual and group counseling as well as 24-hour crisis intervention services. Both male and female staff members are available, some of whom have a background in women’s issues and trauma. When contacting Student Counseling Services for an appointment, you may request a particular counselor. In an emergency situation, you may go directly to Student Counseling Services (320 Student Services Building) for assistance during regular office hours (Monday thru Friday 8:00a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Wednesdays 8:00a.m. to 8:00p.m.). After hours assistance may be accessed by contacting PATH (a 24-hour crisis line) at (309) 827-4005 and speaking with a trained PATH volunteer or asking that they contact the ISU Counselor-on-Call. Student Counseling Services staff are not required to report incidents of sexual assault and/or relationship violence to the university.
  • Dean of Students Office at (309) 438-2008. During academic business hours (8am-4:30pm, Monday-Friday) the Dean of Students or one of the associate deans is available to any student to discuss a problem or concern. Students may call, stop by the office in Bone Student Center, or   e-mail the Dean on Duty. The Dean on Duty can assist with notifying faculty in the event that an absence from campus/classes is needed. http://deanofstudents.illinoisstate.edu/
  • Community Rights and Responsibilities at (309) 438-8621. The student judicial system is responsible for reviewing allegations of student misconduct, convening a University Hearing Panel/Hearing Administrator to determine if violations of University Regulations occurred and determining sanctions for student misconduct.
  • Office of Equal Opportunity, Ethics and Access at (309) 438-3383. The Office of Equal Opportunity, Ethics and Access is the office on campus responsible for ensuring that all members of the campus community follow established University policies and provide an education, working, and living environment free from prohibited harassment, discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual or dating violence. This is the office that receives, and investigates, reports of incidents involving sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and/or relationship violence. The university is required to follow up on all incidents of sexual assault and relationship violence and may investigate to support the university’s efforts to provide a safe and non-discriminatory environment for all students. The survivor determines his/her level of involvement in this process and may decide not to participate in this process.
  • Disability Concerns at (309) 438-5853. The Disability Concerns Office coordinates services for individuals with continuing or temporary disabilities. Services may include consultation with instructors and assistance to survivors in maintaining academic progress. http://disabilityconcerns.illinoisstate.edu/
  • University Housing Services at (309) 438-8611. If an individual feels a need to relocate due to the threat or perceived threat of an accused student, the individual may consult with the Hall Coordinator to explore options for a change in residence. The accused student may be relocated prior to the outcome of a judicial hearing.
  • ISU Police Department at 911 or (309) 438-8631. The ISU PD provides for the protection and welfare of the campus community, and, responds to and investigates reports of violations of University regulations.


  • PATH (Providing Access to Help) Crisis Center at (309) 827-4005. PATH is the community-sponsored 24-hour crisis intervention telephone hotline.
  • YWCA Stepping Stones (Sexual Assault program) at (309) 662-0461. Stepping Stones provides 24-hour assistance for sexual assault and sexual abuse victims and their families in McLean County. Stepping Stones also offers groups for adult and teen-age survivors of sexual assault and abuse. This free, confidential service serves as the central sexual assault resource and referral agency for McLean County.
  • Countering Domestic Violence at (309) 827-7070: This organization provides a 24-hour telephone hotline, support group, legal advocacy and emergency shelter (Neville House) for victims of domestic/relationship violence. Services are confidential. 

 Helpful Websites

2018-01-30T10:32:54.631-06:00 2018