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Relationship Violence

Consider this:

  • Nearly 1 in 3 (32%) college students report dating violence by a previous partner, and 21% report violence by a current partner. C. Sellers and M. Bromley, “Violent Behavior in College Student Dating Relationships,” Journal of Contemporary Justice, (1996).

Dating abuse takes many forms. It is defined as a pattern of physically, sexually, verbally and/or emotionally abusive behavior or privacy intrusions in a dating relationship. It ranges from punching, slapping, pushing and grabbing to rape and murder; from threats of violence, verbal attacks and other forms of intimidation to extreme jealousy, possessiveness and controlling behavior.

Dating abuse is designed to be isolating and controlling, taking different forms at different times and limited only by the energy, imagination and desperation of the abuser.

In the online environment, it can be anonymous, with the abusers hiding behind fake, stolen or impersonated accounts and screen names. It can involve spying and digital tracking of communications and online activities. It can mean using technology (cell phones, social networking sites, etc.) to stay in constant contact.

No matter what form abuse takes, the effect on victims is that no place feels private. No place feels safe.

Dating and domestic abuse are typically not one-time incidents, but a pattern of abusive behaviors over time that cause fear and/or harm. As the pattern continues, the abuser uses emotional manipulation and/or physical domination to gain control and power over his or her partner.

Dating abuse does not discriminate. It affects people of all races, religions, ages, sexual orientations, genders and cultures. It affects people regardless of how much money they have or what neighborhood they live in. While the vast majority of abusers are male and most targets (also known as victims or survivors) are female, females can also be abusers and males can be targets of dating abuse.

Adapted from the “Love is Not Abuse” curriculum.

Warning Signs

Possible warning signs in dating relationships.

If you are in an intimate relationship with someone, is it the healthy situation that you deserve? Answer yes or no to any of the responses below that apply to this relationship.

Note: It is important to remember that sometimes there are no signs that an intimate partner may become abusive.

Does the person I am with
  • Get extremely jealous or possessive?
  • Accuse me of flirting or cheating?
  • Constantly check up on me via calls or texts or make me check in?
  • Tell me how to dress or how much makeup to wear?
  • Try to control what I do and whom I see?
  • Try to keep me from seeing or talking to my family and friends?
  • Have big mood swings—getting angry and yelling at me one minute, and being sweet and apologetic the next?
  • Make me feel nervous, or like I’m walking on eggshells?
  • Put me down or criticize me or post things online to embarrass or humiliate me?
  • Force me to send nude or otherwise “inappropriate” photos of myself?
  • Make me feel that I can’t do anything right?
  • Make me feel that no one else would want me?
  • Threaten to hurt me?
  • Threaten to hurt my friends or family?
  • Threaten to commit suicide?
  • Threaten to hurt him - or herself - because of me?
  • Threaten to hurt my pet(s)?
  • Threaten to destroy my things?
  • Hurt me physically? (includes yelling, grabbing, pushing, shoving, shaking,
  • punching, slapping, holding me down, etc.)
  • Break or throw things when we argue?
  • Pressure or force me into having sex or going further sexually than I want to?

If you answered yes any of these responses, you may be in an abusive relationship. For more information, please contact a campus counselor at the Dickey Health and Wellness Center at (813) 253-6250, a UT victim advocate at (813) 257-3900 or the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay at (813) 234-1234.


Ways to increase your safety in an abusive relationship.

If you are in an abusive relationship, whether you decide to stay in the relationship or leave, you need to think about steps to take to increase your safety.

  • Talk with a trustworthy person (e.g., parent, resident assistant or area coordinator, academic advisor, professor, counselor, clergy member) about what you are experiencing. Doing so can help you to feel less isolated.
  • Create a dating safety plan. A dating safety plan helps people who are experiencing dating abuse to think about safety strategies. Safety plans enable individuals to think ahead about steps to take that may help keep them safer during a dangerous incident.
  • Call the police and/or Campus Safety. If someone is hurting you or you are in immediate danger, it may be best to call the police. Many acts of physical and sexual violence are crimes; the abuser can be arrested and go to jail. The campus conduct process is also an option if the abuser is a UT student.
  • Get a restraining order or a protective order from the city and/or a no-contact order from the Student Conduct Office. A restraining order (also called a protective order) is a court order that makes it illegal for the abuser to harm you, come near you or contact you in any way. When you have an order, you can call the police as soon as the abuser comes near you or contacts you. To find out about the laws in your state, visit Love is Respect. A no-contact order prohibits students from having intentional contact with one another in any way (physically, email, phone, text) and prohibits others from initiating contact on behalf of another student.
  • If your home is not a safe place and/or you live with the abuser, consider going to a domestic violence shelter. (A shelter is a safe place. It’s usually a house or apartment in a secret location, where people experiencing dating or domestic violence and their children can live. The closest domestic violence shelter in Tampa is The Spring). If you live on-campus, contact your area coordinator or a victim advocate to find out what other campus living options may be.


Websites and phones numbers to contact for help.
Domestic Violence Resource Center

National Resource Center on Domestic Violence

The Spring
Tampa’s domestic violence prevention and emergency shelter agency.

Florida Council Against Domestic Violence

Love is Respect
National Dating Abuse Helpline provides 24/7 access to information and services.
Phone: (866) 331-9474 or (866) 331-8453 (TTY)

Love Is Not Abuse
A program of Liz Claiborne Inc. that provides information and tools that men, women, children, teens and corporate executives can use to learn about domestic and dating violence and how they can help end the epidemic.

Break the Cycle
A nonprofit organization whose mission is to engage, educate and empower youth to build lives and communities free from domestic and dating violence.

Dating Matters
Understanding Teen Dating Violence Prevention is a 60-minute, interactive training session designed to help educators, youth-serving organizations, and others working with teens understand the risk factors and warning signs associated with teen dating violence. The training was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in partnership with Liz Claiborne Inc.

A Thin Line
MTV’s initiative to empower America’s youth to identify, respond to and stop the spread of digital abuse.