Relationship Violence


Relationship Violence, also commonly known as dating or domestic violence (DV) or intimate partner violence (IPV), is a pattern of abuse committed by a person, past or present, involved in a social, sexual or romantic relationship with the victim. Relationship violence can encompass a range of behaviors that may include physical violence, sexual violence, emotional violence, and economic violence.

  • Verbal or Emotional Abuse: Non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking.
  • Physical Abuse: Any intentional use of physical force with the intent to cause fear or injury, like hitting, shoving, biting, strangling, kicking or using a weapon.
  • Sexual Abuse: Any action that impacts a person’s ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs, including rape, coercion or restricting access to birth control.
  • Economic Abuse: Any action or behavior that attempts to control finances or economic situations. Examples include stealing from you or taking your money, making you account for every penny you spend, preventing you from working or pursuing a career, and pressuring you into paying for everything.
  • Digital Abuse: Use of technologies and/or social media to intimidate, harass or threaten. This includes demanding passwords, checking cell phones, cyber bullying, unwanted sexting, excessive or threatening texts, stalking on social media, or distributing/threatening to distribute sexual images.

No physical violence needs to occur in order for a relationship to be abusive. However, it is important to know that emotional and psychological abuse often escalate to physical violence in time.

Examples of Abusive Behaviors

  • Excessive possessiveness and jealousy
  • Constantly belittling or insulting partner
  • Checking partner’s cell phone or email without permission
  • Isolating partner from family and friends
  • Pursuing sexual activity when partner is not fully conscious, is not asked, or is afraid to say no
  • Preventing partner from getting or keeping a job
  • Coercing partner to have sex without protection
  • Threatening to spread secrets and/or rumors (outing)
  • Telling partner how to dress or act
  • Hitting, slapping, pushing, strangling
  • Throwing things to threaten violence
  • Destroying partner’s personal items

Warning Signs

It is often difficult to recognize abusive behaviors, especially since they usually aren’t revealed at the beginning of a relationship. Below are some warning signs of abusive behavior that you may want to consider when examining your own relationship or your friend’s:

Does your partner:

  • Blame you for how they treat you or for anything bad that happens?
  • Embarrass or make fun of you in front of friends and others?
  • Put down your goals and accomplishments?
  • Call you several times or show up places when you aren’t together?
  • Tell you that you would be nothing without them?
  • Try to isolate you and control whom you see or where you go?
  • Pressure or force you to be sexual when you don’t want to be?
  • Accuse you of flirting or “coming on” to others or accuse you of cheating on them?
  • Refuse to listen to you or show interest in your opinions or feelings?
  • Insist things always have to be done their way?
  • Ignore you, give you the silent treatment, or hang up on you?
  • Threaten to kill themselves if you break up with them, or tell you that they cannot live without you?
  • Demonstrate extreme mood swings (tell you you’re the greatest one minute and rip you apart the next minute)?

What to do

Visit the Get Help page for more information about safety, medical, support, and reporting options. Visit the Help a Friend page for more information on how to help a friend in an abusive relationship.

If you believe your relationship is abusive, please know that you do not deserve to be in an unhealthy relationship, and you are not at fault for the situation. Abusive relationships can be very complicated, especially if you care about your partner and at times feel happy with them. There are many reasons people remain in unhealthy relationships including: fear of what their partner will do if they breakup; feeling isolated from friends; hoping the abusive partner will change; feeling emotionally invested in and dependent on the relationship.

Ending an unhealthy or abusive relationship is not like ending a healthy one. Your abusive partner may not accept the break up or respect your boundaries. They may try to control you through guilt trips, threats or insults. It may be very difficult to have a peaceful or mutual breakup with an abusive partner. Just know that as long as YOU are okay with the decision, it’s okay if your partner is not.

If you’re thinking of ending your relationship, consider these tips:

  • If you choose to break up with the person, it is best not to do so in person as they may react aggressively or violently.
  • If you break up in person, do it in a public place. Have friends or your parents wait nearby.
  • Don’t try to explain your reasons for ending the relationship more than once. There is likely nothing you can say that will make your ex happy.
  • Let your friends and parents know you are ending your relationship, especially if you think your ex will come to your house or confront you when you’re alone.
  • If your ex does come to your house when you’re alone, don’t go to the door.
  • Trust yourself. If you feel afraid, you probably have a good reason.
  • Ask for help!

Responding to Digital Abuse

Digital sexual abuse includes behaviours such as distributing sexual images of an individual or filming sexual encounters without an individuals’ consent. Hacking, scamming, swatting, doxxing and trolling are also common forms of digital abuse often conducted outside the context of a personal relationship. Digital abuse can cause significant emotional and psychological harm. What begins online can also escalate into physical harm.

If you are being intimidated and communicated with against your will online you may be experiencing cyber-stalking. Many forms of digital abuse are criminal offenses in the State of Pennsylvania.


  • If you are experiencing digital abuse, try to keep all evidence of the abuse received by taking screenshots.
  • If you are a victim of cyber-sexual harassment and you reside in the United States, you can call the CCRI Crisis Helpline at 844-878-CCRI (2274).
  • If you are experiencing sextortion, these are five steps you can take.
  • If you are being blackmailed, these are five steps you can take.
  • If untrue or defamatory content is being posted about you online, consult this online removal guide.


Visit the resources page to find information about support and reporting options.

Additional Information

Online resources for information about relationship violence include: