Relationship Violence

How do I know if I’m in a violent relationship?

It is important to remember that violence in relationships often starts out fairly mild and then escalates over time. People often think that an occasional slap or shove, or low levels of emotional abuse, are not important and won’t get worse, or will just go away. Although this does sometimes happen, in many cases the violence will only continue to get worse. However, even if the violence does not escalate, it is important to remember that no one has the right to hit you or abuse you in any way. If you find yourself in a relationship where such behaviors are occurring, this may be a warning signal to you that your partner is, or may become, dangerous to you. Examples of abusive behaviors include:

  • Trying to control where you go, who you spend time with, and what you do
  • Extreme anger or jealousy over mild events
  • Hitting, threatening to hit, or hitting objects or walls near you
  • Behaving in a frightening manner, even if no explicit threats are made
  • Forcing or coercing you to participate in sexual behavior you don’t want
  • Extreme commitment to traditional gender roles, especially as they pertain to controlling or restricting women’s behavior
  • Attempting to isolate you from friends or family
  • Denying that the abuse has occurred or claiming to be the partner who is being abused
  • Blaming you for the abuse or telling you that you deserve it
  • Threatening to, or actually harming or destroying your possessions
  • Threatening to, or actually hurting your pets, family members, friends, or other loved ones
  • Threatening to hurt or kill themselves

If you are, or think you may be, in a violent relationship, it is important to talk to someone. The UMKC’s Victim Services Adjudication Advisor is available to help provide you with support and resources to assist you in deciding what course of action you should take.  Rose Brooks Center provides a 24 hour/ 7 days a week referral line (1.816.545.4700).

Why do people stay in violent relationships?

Although there is a myth that people, especially women, stay indefinitely in abusive relationships, the truth is that most people do eventually leave. Leaving is a process, though, and for some people it involves going back to the abusive partner and then leaving again. There are many reasons why people stay in an abusive relationship for a while, including:

  • They fear the abuser, who may have threatened to kill them, or someone they love if they leave.
  • The abuser has succeeded in isolating them, personally and economically, to the point that they feel they have nowhere to go.
  • Their partner has succeeded in systematically dismantling their self-esteem so that they feel they are at fault or deserve the abuse and do not have the right to leave.
  • They may still love their partner and be convinced that he/she can change.
  • They are taking time to get money and resources together so that they can leave successfully.
  • They may feel that they are at fault and responsible for the abuse.
  • They may not know that resources are available to help them leave.
  • They may fear stigma and feel ashamed to have people know they have been abused.
  • They may fear being deported if their residence status in the U.S. is dependent upon their partner.
  • Their religion, ethnic or cultural beliefs may prohibit or discourage divorce.

As with sexual assault, people sometimes are not sure if what their partner is doing constitutes abuse. Or the abuse may have escalated so slowly that they don’t know how they ended up with someone who hurts them. Regardless of how the abuse came about, remember that it is not your fault and no one has the right to hurt you.

Can Men be the Victims of Intimate Partner Violence?

Yes. The common perception of relationship violence is that of a man battering his wife or girlfriend. Although this is the most frequent form of intimate partner violence, not all violent relationships fit that stereotype. Men can be victims of intimate partner violence at the hands of a male (see next section) or a female partner. Unfortunately, there may be barriers to men seeking and receiving services due to the stereotypes that only women are battered. However, although shelters are usually only available for women, both men and women can make use of UMKC’s Victim Services Adjudication Advisor services, hotlines and the legal and medical systems. If you are a man who is the victim of intimate partner violence, you have just as much right to receive assistance and have your experiences taken seriously as anyone else.

Does Intimate Partner Violence Occur in Same-Sex Relationships?

Yes, people of all sexual orientations can be battered by their partners.  The dynamics of power and control, as well as the types of abusive actions, seem to be fairly similar to those in heterosexual relationships. One exception is that threats of outing may be used to control or intimidate a same-sex partner, especially if they are not able to be open about their sexual orientation at work or with their family. The effects of violence, such as fear, guilt, feelings of shame or responsibility, anger, as well as physical injury, are also similar in same-sex battering.
Unfortunately, people abused by their same-sex partner often face additional obstacles in finding support, assistance, and even legal help. Some of these barriers include:

  • The myth that intimate partner violence only occurs in male-female relationships, which is frequently supported by outreach campaigns that only target violence in heterosexual relationships. This myth can cause battered gays and lesbians to feel even more isolated, to believe that they are the only person to have experienced such abuse, and can make it harder to even recognize the aggressive behavior as abuse.
  • Non-responsiveness, homophobia, or mistakes by the legal system. This can include police refusing to take the situation seriously, arresting the victim because he or she looks stronger or more “masculine,” an inability to recognize battering in same-sex relationships, and even anti-gay slurs or violence.
  • Fear of prejudice in the legal system, hospitals, counselors, shelters, etc. Although prejudice does exist, some service providers have received special training and are compassionate, understanding and aware of violence in same-sex relationships. Unfortunately, survivors often do not know which service providers have such training and may avoid seeking services altogether because of fear of being treated harshly or violently, or of being involuntarily outed.

All of these reasons can cause men and women abused by their same-sex partners to be reluctant to seek assistance. It’s sometimes even difficult for same-sex survivors of intimate partner violence to label it as abuse at all, due to the strength of the idea that intimate partner violence only includes women battered by men. But it’s important to remember that intimate partner violence does occur in all types of relationships and that all survivors of such violence have the
right to assistance.