What is Dating Violence?
TTU's Code of Student Conduct, specifically Part I, Section B.2.b.4 (found here), prohibits any intentional or reckless behavior that harms, threatens, or endangers the physical or emotional health or safety of self or others. This includes a specific provision regarding intimate partner / relationship violence, defined as:
Violence or abuse, verbal or physical, by a person in an intimate relationship with another.
What is Intimate Patner/Relationship Violence?
Intimate Partner / Relationship Violence is the broader term that encompasses both dating violence and domestic violence. Dating violence typically refers to any type of verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse that occurs between two people identified as being in a dating relationship; domestic violence is the same abuse occurring between two cohabitating people, irrespective of a dating dynamic; and more broadly, intimate partner / relationship violence is any abuse occurring between two people who are intimately involved. This type of violence is often the result of an abuser's desire to control his or her partner's thoughts and actions; it's about power, not passion. The abuser often uses a variety of abusive methods to gain that control, including emotional, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.
What Qualifies as an Intimate Relationship?
Relationship violence can occur within a dating relationship, in a marriage, or between roommates. These types of relationships are indicated by a number of factors including a pattern of close, personal connections, shared living space, and frequent interactions between the two parties. Sexual intimacy is not required to qualify as an intimate relationship. Texas Tech recognizes these various types of relationships regardless of the abuser's or victim's gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
Emotional abuse is pattern of behavior that over time has the effect of diminishing the victim's sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth. The abuser commits acts of neglect, humiliation, intimidation, isolation, confinement, and verbal assault in order to gain control of the victim's thoughts or actions. Victims who suffer from emotional abuse often exhibit signs such as very low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
Some examples of emotional abuse include:
- Verbal Abuse: name-calling, badgering, mocking, humiliating, shaming, or criticizing
- Intimidation: displaying weapons, abusing pets, destroying property, or using looks, actions, gestures, and a tone of voice to indicate a threat of violence
- Isolation: controlling a victim's movements and communication with others, using jealousy and the victim's desire to be loved to manipulate the victim into submission
- Neglect: ignoring, abandoning, refusing intimacy, withholding affection as punishment
- Financial Control: forcing a partner to live on an allowance, removing access to joint bank accounts.
Verbal abuse is the extreme use of language in the form of insults or humiliation by an abuser to undermine a victim's dignity, self-esteem, or security. Victims of verbal abuse tend to constantly second-guess their own abilities and often feel useless and powerless. The tragedy is that a victim with low self-esteem and self-worth will often seek love and approval from his or her abuser. This gives the abuser power and control over the victim and ensures that the cycle of abuse will continue.
Relationship violence frequently begins with verbal abuse in the form of name-calling, mocking, embarrassing, criticizing, and/or shaming. The abuser may say, “I love you,” but the rest of the message could be a disguised criticism or threat. For example, an abuse may say, “I love you, but if you don't do this for me, I'll find someone who will.” Sometimes the language is loving, but the tone used by the abuser implies that the message is a lie and the abuser is really making a threat. Verbal abuse is one of the most difficult abuses to identify because it leaves no physical wounds. However, the victim often feels the emotional pain of verbal abuse for a very long time.
Too often, a victim will ignore verbal abuse at the beginning of a relationship in an attempt to “keep the peace.” Some people fail to recognize they are in an abusive relationship because they tend to minimize the emotional effects of their partner's verbal assaults. At first the verbal abuse may only happen when the victim is alone with the abuser. Over time, as the abuser becomes more comfortable with using abusive language and the verbal assaults may begin to occur in front of family, friends, and strangers. The abuser may try to manipulate the victim into giving up freedom or resources in return for love. The verbal abuse may begin to take the form of threats to the victim's safety. Tragically, verbal abuse can quickly progress to physical abuse. Abusers tend to become more aggressive over time in their efforts to control their partners. When attempts to control emotions and self-esteem are not enough, abusers turn to physical force. Learning to recognize the early indicators of relationship violence could save victim's life.
Some examples of verbal abuse include:
- “It's cute that you want to be a doctor, but do you really think you're smart enough? That's a lot of hard work. Maybe you should do something less challenging. Leave medicine to the intelligent people.”
- “I love you, but your weight is embarrassing. I can't be with a fat girl. Get to the gym or I will have to find someone else.”
- “I can't believe you got a C on that paper. You are such a loser. How could you screw up such an easy assignment? You're can't do anything right.”
- “You can't go out dressed like that. You look like a slut. Go cover yourself before someone sees you.”
- “Who have you been talking to? You're with me. Stop acting like a whore!”
- “Let me do the talking. You always sound like an idiot. I'd hate for you to humiliate yourself again.”
- “Get over here NOW!! Quit acting like you're scared of me or I'll give you something to be afraid of!”
Physical abuse is perhaps the most obvious type of relationship abuse because it often (though not always) leaves physical evidence of the abuse. The victim may have bruises, cuts, broken bones, and/or other physical trauma that can be seen by others. However, many abusers become quite skilled at abusing their victim in a place or manner that can easily be covered and hidden. Large sunglasses can cover black eyes and bruises may be covered by hair and by clothing.
A few examples of physical abuse include:
- Preventing their partner from leaving
- Throwing objects
- Pushing, shoving, hair-pulling
- Scratching, hitting, kicking
- Threatening, or using weapons
It is a common misconception that sexual abuse cannot occur within an intimate relationship. This myth originated from the idea that two people in an intimate relationship have given each other sweeping permission for sexual contact at any time simply by agreeing to be in the relationship. This is false. The requirement that an initiator be given clear, knowing, and voluntary consent prior to sexual activity does not change, regardless of relationship status. A sexual partner has the right to refuse sexual contact with his or her partner at any time and for any reason. If one partner in an intimate relationship forces or coerces unwanted sexual contact with the other partner at any time, that sexual contact is not consensual and constitutes sexual assault.
Some examples of sexual abuse include:
- “Come on. You let me do that to you last night. Why can't I do it again now?”
- “If you loved me, you'd sleep with me.”
- “If you won't have sex with me, I'll find someone who will.”
- “You might as well sleep with me, because I'm going to tell everyone you did anyway. Or maybe I'll just tell everyone you're a tease and a prude and no one else will want you.”
- Forced sex or any sex involving a partner who just lays there and doesn't say anything.
Cycle of Abuse
Because abuse occurs over time, the victim often does not realize he or she is in an abusive relationship. This type of abuse generally occurs in a cycle.
1. Tension Builds:
First, tension builds up in the relationship. At this stage, abusers appear short tempered, are easily agitated, and are quick to point out the faults of others, especially their victim's. In this stage, victims often report feeling like they are “walking around on egg shells” trying not to upset their abusers. These victims feel self-conscious about what they say or do and are frequently anxious about making mistakes. Inevitably, the victim will do or say something that will anger the abuser.
2. Act of Violence
Next, the abuser lashes out in an act of verbal, emotional, or physical violence. The release of energy reduces the tension. Abusers will often feel and/or tell the victim that he or she “had it coming” to them.
Also called the “honeymoon” stage. The victim's self-esteem and self-worth is often diminished by the act of violence, feeling pain, fear, or humiliation. The victim may even try to win back the love and affection of the abuser by words or actions. The abuser may feel guilty, often out of fear that the victim might leave or report the incident. The abuser might make excuses for his or her behavior (with or without taking responsibility), deny the abuse, or say it wasn't as bad as the victim claims it was. The abuser may try to apologize for his or her behavior and vow to never be abusive again.
4. All is Calm:
Finally, there will be a period of “normalcy” wherein the abuser seems charming and tries to make the victim happy. This can involve the abuser buying the victim presents, agreeing to see a counselor, and in instances of intimate partner relationships, the couple may engage in passionate make-up sex. It is important to note that, eventually, tension tends to build again in the relationship and the cycle will repeat. Generally, each time the cycle begins again, the abuser becomes more aggressive, controlling, and violent.
Why Would Anyone Stay in an Abusive Relationship?
Some victims report still loving their abusers and recall the “good times” more often than the abusive acts. Some victims believe they can change their abusers by showing patience and love no matter what acts of violence their abusers commit. Additionally, victims may feel shame and embarrassment for getting into such a relationship. Some victims feel pressured by family members or their community to stay in an abusive relationship for the sake of their children or even for religious reasons. Far more commonly, victims stay in abusive relationships out of fear; fear of being alone or fear that their abuser will harm or kill them if they try to leave.
How to Help Someone Get Out of an Abusive Relaionship:
It is sometimes difficult to know what to say or do for a friend or loved one in an abusive relationship. Here are a few tips to help you support a victim of relationship abuse:
- Listen with patience and give the victim time to tell their story in their own words.
- Ask them how you can help and respect their ideas. Only they can decide when and how they will end the relationship. If you try to do it for them, you may make the situation worse.
- Avoid expressing judgment towards the victim, even if it has taken them a long time to seek help. Instead express your concern for their safety and wellbeing and offer to give them support and encouragement while they get the resources they need to end the relationship.
- Understand that an “escape plan” may be vital to the victim's successful exodus from the relationship. They may need time and assistance to gather the resources and make sure they are ready and able to financially and emotionally survive the ending of the relationship.
- Be aware of your own emotional and physical safety. You have to be strong and healthy if you want to help them get strong and healthy. If you are not in a healthy state of mind, please seek others to help you support the victim.
Resources for Victims of Relationship Violence:
Texas Tech University and the Lubbock community have several resources available to help victims of relationship find safety from their abusers. The victim of the abuse will determine what University resources will be sought. In addition to the University resources listed in the Resources section below, the following are local and national helplines.