University of Vermont

Relationship Violence

Relationship violence (also known as intimate partner violence (IPV), dating abuse, or domestic violence) is a series of tactics used by a person to gain and maintain control in the context of an intimate or family relationship.

These tactics can be:

  • Physical,
  • Psychological (Emotional), and/or
  • Sexual in nature.

Tactics used in violent relationships can include (but are not limited to):

  • Punching;
  • Choking;
  • Restraining;
  • Name calling;
  • Extreme jealousy;
  • Isolation from friends and family;
  • Threatening to harm self, partner, or others;
  • Withholding intimacy; or
  • Sexual assault.

The Cycle of Violence/Patterns of Relationship Violence

Relationship violence tends to follow a specific pattern of behavior, which is described as a cycle of violence.  The cycle is made up of three phases; each phase may be as short as a few seconds or as long as several years.

NOTE: These phases do not happen in every abusive relationship. Someone may be experiencing relationship violence even if this pattern does not exist.

  • Phase 1:
    TENSION BUILDING: Things start to get tense between the two people involved. There may be a lot of arguing and the person being abused may feel as though he/she can do nothing right.
  • Phase 2:
    EXPLOSION: Tension is released in a burst of physical, sexual and/or verbal/emotional abuse. The abuser may scream and yell in a frightening or humiliating way; he/she may also threaten to hurt the other person or someone they care about.
  • Phase 3:
    HONEYMOON: The abuser attempts to make amends by apologizing and/or shifting the blame for what has happened onto someone or something else. The abuser may buy the victim gifts and/or promise that the abuse will never happen again.

Then, the cycle starts again, and the explosions may become more violent and dangerous. Over time, the honeymoon periods grow shorter and sometimes disappear entirely.

Relationship Violence Warning Signs

If you are uncomfortable with the behavior of someone you are dating or the behavior of a friend’s partner, there’s probably a good reason for it. There are some common red flags in relationships that involve intimate partner violence. While one isolated incident may not indicate a problem, a pattern of incidences does.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to evaluate whether you are in an abusive relationship:

  • Are you afraid of your partner or do you feel like you have to walk on eggshells to keep your partner from getting angry?
  • Has your partner ever humiliated you with put downs or name-calling?
  • Has your partner ever hit, slapped, pushed or restrained you?
  • Have you lost contact with many of your friends or family since you’ve been with your partner?
  • Have you stopped doing things or talking with certain people to keep your partner from getting jealous or angry?
  • Have you been forced by your partner to do something you didn’t want to do?

Do you think you might be abusive in your relationship?  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your partner afraid of you sometimes?
  • Are you very protective and jealous of your partner?
  • Have you ever threatened or punished your partner?
  • Do you check up on your partner’s whereabouts frequently if you are not with him/her?
  • Do you frequently “tease” your partner about their weaknesses either in public or private?
  • Have you ever thrown things or hit walls during an argument with your partner?

If you answered “yes” to one or more of the questions above, you may be in an abusive relationship or you may use abusive tactics in your relationship. It’s important to talk with an advocate or professional about your concerns. If you think your partner is abusive, and you would like to get some support and guidance around what you are experiencing, you can contact the Campus Victim’s Advocate at (802) 656-7892.

If you think you might be abusive to your partner, and you want to change your behavior and get guidance and support about healthy relationships, contact Counseling and Psychiatry Services at (802) 656-3340.

Last modified February 19 2014 02:08 PM