What Is Relationship Abuse?

What is Relationship Abuse?

Relationship abuse is a pattern of abusive and coercive behaviors used to maintain power and control over a former or current intimate partner. Abuse can be emotional, financial, sexual or physical and can include threats, isolation, and intimidation. Abuse tends to escalate over time. When someone uses abuse and violence against a partner, it is always part of a larger pattern of control.

Please see our Definitions page and our Frequently Asked Questions page for more information.

It Is Not Your Fault

If you are being abused by your partner, you may feel confused, afraid, angry and/or trapped. All of these emotions are normal responses to abuse. You may also blame yourself for what is happening. But no matter what others might say, you are never responsible for your partner’s abusive actions. Dating abuse is not caused by alcohol or drugs, stress, anger management, or provocation. It is always a choice to be abusive.

Please see If You Are Being Abused for assistance.

Holding Abusers Accountable

Holding abusers accountable sends a message to others that abuse of any kind will not be tolerated in our community. Unfortunately, there are still many barriers to justice in the criminal justice system, and when professionals do not understand the dynamics of domestic violence, it can make it difficult to adequately identify and prosecute abusers. In addition, many women cannot rely on the criminal justice system due to institutional barriers, including discrimination or homophobia. Therefore, it is important for us to hold abusers accountable on an individual level as well. Do not blame the survivor. Teach your children that violence is never the answer to a problem, and that controlling another person is wrong.

A Note on Terminology

Domestic violence/relationship abuse refers to intimate relationships, not child abuse. Because the vast majority of relationship abuse is committed by men against women in heterosexual relationships, this website sometimes contains the female gender pronoun when referring to the abused person. Domestic violence/relationship abuse happens at the same rate in LGBTQQ relationships and all of the information on this site is relevant for male victims and for individuals in same-gender relationships. In addition, please see our resources on same-gender relationships. Our goal is to encourage helping professionals to be gender inclusive. This includes using gender-neutral language when working with individuals, while continuing to analyze gender as a construct that has implications on gender-based violence in both heterosexual and same-gender relationships.