Santa Clara University

Wellness Center

Forms of Abuse in Relationships

Most people in relationships experience occasional disagreements with their partner, which is normal. Disagreements can even be healthy for a relationship when they are resolved constructively and peacefully in a reasonable period of time. Sometimes, however, disagreements become abusive, which is unhealthy or even dangerous to the overall relationship or an involved partner. Abuse in relationships can take the form of physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, or economic abuse and typically includes threats, intimidation, intense criticism, forced isolation, and/or physical violence. The overwhelming proportion of victims of relationship violence are women, but violence has been known to be perpetrated against men as well. Relationship abuse and violence occurs among all races, ages, classes, and religious groups. It is a sadly frequent component in heterosexual, gay, and lesbian dating relationships. It damages and destroys committed relationships such as marriage and long-term partnerships as well as the new relationship.


Forms of Abuse

Using Isolation

  • controlling what you do, who you see and talk to, where you go, limiting your outside involvement
  • using jealousy to justify actions
  • sabotaging new and old relationships

Using Emotional Abuse

  • putting you down, calling you names, making you feel bad about yourself
  • playing mind games, making you think you are "crazy"
  • humiliating you in front of your friends

Using Children

  • using visitation (access) to harass you
  • using children to relay messages, telling them bad things about you
  • threatening to take children away
  • making you feel bad about your parenting

Using Intimidation, Coercion and Threats

  • making you afraid by using looks, actions, gestures
  • smashing or throwing things
  • threatening to leave or hurt/kill themselves or you
  • purchasing or displaying weapons
  • abusing pets or destroying cherished items

Minimizing, Denying and Blaming

  • making light of the abuse
  • saying the abuse didn't happen
  • saying you caused the abuse
  • blaming stress for problem

Physical Abuse

  • hitting, slapping, punching, biting, kicking, pushing or harming you in any way
  • confining, hiding or preventing you from leaving
  • withholding/preventing you from getting physical care, food, or medication

Using Social Status and Privilege

  • reinforcing control over you by using gender, race, class, sexual orientation, immigration status, age, occupation, wealth, physical or developmental ability
  • using institutions to reinforce power or privilege

Using Economic Abuse

  • preventing you from getting or keeping a job
  • taking your money
  • making you ask for money or an allowance
  • not allowing your participation in financial decision making

Sexual Abuse

  • any sexual activity that is unwanted or coerced
  • making you feel bad/guilty if you do not want to engage in sex
  • sexual name calling or accusations
  • uninformed sexual activity, i.e. non-disclosure of STD/HIV status
  • forced pregnancy or termination of pregnancy

Relationship abuse can cause many negative effects on your emotional well-being, physical health, and academic future, including:

- low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence
- increased vulnerability to further abuse
- inability to concentrate
- lack of motivation
- depression, grief
- anxiety, fear
- trouble with trust
- difficulty in relationships
- problems with sex
- guilt and self-blame
- feelings of isolation

The longer you keep it to yourself, the harder it is to make it go away!! REMEMBER: THE ABUSE IS NEVER YOUR FAULT! YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANYONE ELSE'S BEHAVIOR!

If you or a friend is experiencing any of these forms of abuse, please know that help is possible.  Contact the SCU Wellness Center (554-4409) or Counseling Center (554-4172) to discuss your situation and gain some support and help.

**Materials adapted from the Battered Women's Advocacy Centre, London ON

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