Is Your Relationship Heading Into Dangerous Territories
- Is violence a problem in your relationship?
- What to do if you are being assaulted or fear being assaulted
- Do you see yourself or a friend in the following questions?
- If you have been violent toward your partner
- If someone you know is being abused
- Cycle of Domestic Violence
- Campus & Community Resources
- If your partner has been violent with you
- Reading Resources
Is Violence a Problem in Your Relationship?
Lots of people have it. Relationship violence is an equal opportunity problem. Anybody can have it.
Men have it. Women have it. Wealthy people, poor people, white folks, folks of color, Republicans and
Democrats have it. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, and even atheists
have it. Computer users have it. Nice people have it. Somebody you know has it. Maybe your spouse/partner
has it. Maybe you have it.
Do You See Yourself or a Friend in the Following Questions?
- Are you afraid of your partner or feel like you have to walk on pins and needles sometimes to keep your partner from getting angry?
- Has your partner ever hit, slapped, or pushed you?
- Do you ever get the feeling you've done something wrong but you'd have to read your partner's mind to find out what it is?
- Is your partner very good to you most of the time - sometimes downright wonderful, but every once in a while very cruel or scary?
- Have you been forced by your partner to do something you didn't want to do?
- Have you lost all or most of your friends since you've been with your partner?
- Do you feel isolated, like there's nowhere to turn for help, and that no one would believe you anyway?
- If your partner asks, do you feel like you have to say everything's okay even when it's really not?
- Have you ever been in a relationship where you could have answered "yes" to these questions, but right now you're past all that?
How About These Questions
- Is your partner afraid of you sometimes?
- Are you very protective and jealous of your partner?
- Have you ever hit, slapped or pushed your partner?
- Have you ever threatened your partner or said, "Don't make me angry!"?
- Have you ever thrown things or hit walls during an argument with your partner?
- Do you find yourself "convincing" your partner on a regular basis to do things that he or she would rather not do?
- Have you ever intentionally harmed or broken something which was important to your partner?
- Are you sure that you don't have an abuse problem because you see people around you doing worse all the time?
If you found yourself answering yes to several of the preceding questions, then violence may be a
problem in your relationship. The information in this brochure may help you choose what to do next.
Violent and Non-Violent Relationships
Violent Relationship Based on Power and Control and Respect
- Emotional Abuse: Putting the other person down or making them feel bad about themselves. Using mind games; making the other person feel crazy.
- Isolation: Controlling what the partner does, where she/he goes and who the partner sees.
- Intimidation: Using looks, actions, gestures that instill fear (e.g. using a loud voice, smashing things, destroying property).
- Economic Abuse: Trying to keep the partner from being financially independent, from getting or keeping a job. Making the partner ask for money, taking the partner's money, and/or giving the partner an allowance.
- Using Children: Making the partner feel guilty about the children, using the children to relay messages, using visitation as harassment tool.
- Making Threats: Making or carrying out threats to do something to harm the partner, e.g., threatening to commit suicide, threatening to take the children.
- Using "Power-Over": Treating the partner like a servant. Making all the "big" decisions. Acting like the "King/Queen of the castle."
- Sexual Abuse: Making the partner be sexual in ways the partner doesn't want. Treating the other person like a sex object.
Non-Violent Relationship Based on Mutuality
- Negotiation and Fairness: Seeking mutually satisfying resolutions to conflict, accepting change, and being willing to compromise.
- Non-threatening Behavior: Talking and acting in a way that the partner feels safe and comfortable expressing her or himself and doing things.
- Respect: Listening to the partner non-judgmentally. Being emotionally affirming and understanding, and valuing each others' opinions.
- Economic Partnership: Making financial decisions together and making sure that both partners benefit from financial arrangements.
- Responsible Parenting: Sharing parental responsibilities and being a positive, non-violent role model for the children.
- Honesty and Accountability: Accepting responsibility for one's behavior, acknowledging any past use of violence, admitting being wrong, communicating openly.
- Shared Responsibility: Mutually agreeing on a fair distribution of work, and making family decisions together.
- Trust and Support: Supporting the partner's goals in life and respecting the partners right to his or her own feelings, activities, and opinions.
Cycle of Domestic Violence
The Cycle of Domestic Violence* shows how domestic violence often becomes a pattern made up of three
stages. It also depicts how love (for your partner), hope (that the relationship will get better), and
fear (of retaliation for ending the relationship) keep the cycle in motion and make it hard to end a
*"Cycle of Violence" concept comes from Walker, L. (1979).
"The Battered Woman," New York: Harper & Row.
Stage One: Tension-Building
- Rather than using mutual communication, negotiation, or compromise to solve problems, violent individuals tend to rely on the use of force or coercion to get what they want.
- Typically, violence occurs after a build-up of tension in the relationship about issues which are not directly discussed or resolved.
- During this period, tension mounts, communication decreases, and both partners may feel tense, edgy, and jumpy.
- Arguments and criticism tend to increase during this period.
Stage Two: Violence
- After this build-up, physical violence may erupt over seemingly insignificant issues.
- Tension seems to be released, and often, the relationship seems to improve.
Stage Three: Seduction
- Perpetrators of violence often apologize, make promises to change, and pay special attention to their partners immediately following a violent incident.
- This period is sometimes referred to as the "honeymoon period" because of the positive feelings resulting from the release of tension and the hope that things will change for the better.
- This kind of spontaneous change rarely occurs, however, because the underlying pattern of control and lack of communication and compromise has not changed.
If your partner has been violent with you:
Talk to someone about your feelings. Since relationship violence is traumatic and overwhelming, it is
important for you to have support. If you find that family or friends are not able to understand, or
cannot offer all the support you need, there are a number of campus and community agencies where trained
professionals can assist you in a caring, confidential manner. Know that you are not alone. More than 50%
of women in the U.S. report having experienced violence at the hands of a spouse or romantic partner.
Know that you are not to blame. You may have been told that it's your fault, that you provoked the
violence. You may even feel guilty and ashamed. It is important to know, however, that violence is the
choice of the abuser - you cannot make that choice for him or her. Plan for your safety. Once violence
has occurred in a relationship, it is likely to re-occur. It is important to have a plan for how to
protect yourself from future violence. Learn some of the phone numbers listed under Campus &
Community Resources at the end of this pamphlet. Talk to a trusted friend or relative about what is
happening and arrange to stay with that person when things get bad. Keep a spare set of keys and some
money in a place where you can get to them in a hurry. If you decide to leave, consider seeking a
protective order. A protective order is a court order that can remove the abuser from his/her residence
if that residence is shared with you; forbid the abuser from communicating with you, or going near your
place of residence or employment; and order the abuser to attend counseling or a batterer's treatment
If you have been assaulted, or fear being assaulted:
- Call 911
- Attend to physical well-being. Get medical attention!
- Seek crisis intervention and counseling. See the list of Community Resources at the end of this brochure.
If you have been violent toward your partner:
- Know that you are also not alone. Recent research concludes that 20 to 30% of college dating relationships have included incidents of both verbal and physical abuse.
- Understand that violence is a learned behavior, not an innate trait or permanent personality feature. Violent behavior is something that can be changed- if you commit yourself to a change process.
- Take responsibility for your violent behavior. The first step in changing any problematic behavior is acknowledging that you have a problem and taking responsibility for it. It is not enough to say "I'm sorry, I'll never do it again." That is merely part of the cycle of abuse - the "Seduction" or "Honeymoon" Phase.
- Seek outside help. There are programs available that provide education and counseling about ways to "unlearn" violent behavior and to learn alternative ways of dealing with frustration and anger. (See Campus & Community Resources.)
To end the cycle of violence, it is important for both partners in a relationship to seek outside help
and support. It takes work and commitment to stop violence and to establish non-violent patterns of
solving problems. The involvement of professionals who have experience dealing with relationship violence
gives you a much better chance of achieving these goals.
If Someone You Know is Being Abused... What Should You Do?
You may have a friend, relative, or neighbor who is being abused. You may have witnessed the violence,
heard it, seen physical signs of it, or merely suspected it for various reasons. What should you do?
- Ask direct questions, gently. Give the person ample opportunity to talk. Don't rush into providing solutions
- Listen - without judging.
- Let your friend know that you offer your support and caring, that the responsibility for the violence lies elsewhere, and that only the abuser can stop the violence.
- Explain that physical violence in a relationship is never acceptable, at any time. There's no excuse for it - not alcohol or drugs, not financial pressures, not depression, notjealousy.
- If your friend has children and is concerned for them, reinforce that concern and let him or her know that domestic violence is damaging to children. In fact, you may want to reach out to support the children, letting them know you're there for them, as well
- Let the person know that, in spite of the partner's promises, the violence is likely to continue and, probably, escalate.
- Emphasize that, if it becomes necessary, it is possible to make a choice to leave the relationship, and help is available.
- Provide your friend information about local resources. If the person chooses to remain in the relationship, continue to be a friend, while at the same time firmly communicating that no one deserves to be in a violent situation.
- If you see or hear an assault in progress, call the police. But because these assaults are often dangerous, do not physically intervene.
Campus & Community Resources
California State University, Bakersfield
Counseling Center (8-6 M-Th, 8-5 F): 661/654-3366
University Health Services: 661/654-2394
Campus Police: 661/654-2211 or 911
Kern County Mental Health - 868-6600
Alliance Against Family Violence - 322-0931
Clinica Sierra Vista - 326-8167
Frazier Mt. Community Health - 858-2970
Ebony Counseling Center - 324-4756
Reading Resources on Relationship Violence
- You Can Be Free: An Easy-to-Read Handbook for Abused Women. Davidson, Sue and NiCarthy, Ginney. Seattle, WA: The Seal Press, 1989. (Available at UT Libraries.)
- Outgrowing The Pain. Gil, Eliana, Ph.D. New York: Dell Publishing, 1983.
- For Shelter and Beyond: Ending Violence Against Battered Women and Their Children. Second Edition. Boston: Massachusetts Coalition of Battered Women Service Groups, Inc., 1990.
- Chain Chain Change, for Black Women Dealing With Physical and Emotional Abuse. White, Evelyn C. Seattle, WA: The Seal Press, 1985. (Available at UT Libraries.)
- Violent No More: Helping Men End Domestic Abuse. Paymar, Michael. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, Inc., 1993.
- When Anger Hurts: Quieting The Storm Within. McKay, Matthew, Rogers, Peter D., & McKay, Judith. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 1989.
If you are in doubt about where to turn for assistance, please feel free to call the Counseling Center
This information was prepared by the University of Texas at Austin Counseling and Mental Health Center
to assist students with mental health issues.