How to Help: Abusive Relationships

Sometimes it is hard to know whether a friend is being abused in a dating relationship. However, every year thousands of young adults find themselves in abusive relationships, and may stay in the relationship because they hope their partner will change over time. Examples of abuse include:

Psychological and Emotional Abuse

  • Stalking
  • Mind games or making your partner feel crazy
  • Telling "secrets" to others
  • Ignoring or giving the "silent treatment"

Verbal Abuse

  • Name Calling
  • Criticizing
  • Public humiliation
  • Put downs
  • Embarrassments

Destruction of Personal Property

  • Destroying pictures, letters, clothing, gifts, other personal property
  • Defacing or causing damage to partner's possessions

Threats, Anger, and Intimidation

  • Using looks, actions, expressions, or a loud voice to intimidate
  • Smashing or throwing objects
  • Threatening to leave partner or abandon partner in a dangerous place
  • Threatening suicide
  • Threatening physical harm

Isolation, Jealousy, Possessiveness and Restrictions of Freedoms

  • Using jealousy as a sign of love, instead of a sign of insecurity
  • Controlling the actions and activities of the partner
  • Accusations of cheating

Assuming "Rights"

  • Making all the decisions in the relationship
  • Going out with friends but not allowing the partner to do the same
  • Walking out on an argument
  • Doing all the initiation of contact and expecting the partner to always be there waiting

Sexual Abuse

  • Unwanted or uncomfortable touching
  • Continued sexual advances after being told "no"
  • Forced sex
  • Playful use of force during sex
  • Treating partner like a sex object

Physical Abuse

  • Any attempt to hurt or scare the partner physically
  • Hitting, biting, hair pulling, tripping, kicking, scratching, grabbing, pushing, shove choking, burning

Often abuse in relationships occurs in a cycle, where the abuser becomes increasingly angry, jealous, and moody. This can escalate to physical violence despite the partner's attempts to placate the abuser, and is often followed by a time where the abuser is penitent, kind, and loving and promises not to abuse again. Without intervention, the cycle usually repeats again and again.

If your friend is being hurt by an abusive relationship, you can:

  • Help your friend recognize the abuse. Ask questions about what is happening and help your friend to see the signs of abuse. Share your concern that the abuse will likely get worse.
  • Support your friend's strength. Recognize what he/she does to care for him/herself. Encourage your friend to do things with you and others outside the relationship.
  • Be non-judgmental. Acknowledge your friend's confusion because of fright about the abuse and at the same time need for love and security. Tell your friend you are concerned for his/her welfare and safety and help your friend to see he/she is not to blame for the abuse.
  • Help your friend develop safety plans. Share information about resources for safety (see below). Consider spending time with your friend, invite him/her to share space in your room or share in your activities, if your friend is feeling unsafe.
  • Continue to listen to and support your friend, even if your friend is not yet ready to end the abusive relationship.
  • Keep up the support even if the relationship ends.
  • Encourage your friend to seek help from a professional. If your friend is in immediate danger, let someone in a position to intervene know what is happening. Get help for yourself if you are frightened or frustrated.

Some resources on campus and in the Decorah Community include:

  • Counseling Service: 563-387-1375, Larsen Hall
  • Health Service: 563-387-1045, Larsen Hall
  • Office of College Ministries: 563-387-1040, CFL 107
  • Domestic Abuse Resource Center: 563-382-2989 or Crisis Line (24 hours; 1-800-383-2988)
  • Your Hall Director: Miller/Dieseth: 563-387-1770; Brandt: 563-387-1773; Ylvisaker: 563-387-1771; Olson/Larsen: 563-387-1775; Farwell/Baker Village/College Apartments: 563-387-2186
  • Your RA