Relationship violence (also known as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), dating or domestic violence) is any physical or sexual harm against an individual by a current or former spouse of or person in a dating relationship with such individual that results from any action by such spouse or such person that may be classified as a sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence under Connecticut law.
Relationship violence can happen to anyone regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religion. It can happen between heterosexual and same-sex married couples, dating couples, or ex-partners. Relationship violence is not about love. It is about maintaining control and power.
Abuse in relationships is much too common – it affects at least one quarter of all relationships: between men and women and same sex couples alike. However, in heterosexual relationships, men comprise the overwhelming majority of perpetrators and women the majority of victims. For this reason, in this section, we will refer to abusers as “he” and victims as “she,” although we do not intend to slight victims of any gender.
The information provided here is designed to empower victims, as well as their friends and family members, in making decisions about their lives, in breaking free of an abusive relationship, and finding the support they need to get to a place of healing and personal empowerment.
Examples of relationship violence include, but are not limited to:
- Unwanted control of finances, including taking wages or putting the partner “on an allowance.”
- Insisting on knowing the partner’s whereabouts at all times.
- Intimidation through words, threats, or acts of violence; threatened or completed violence towards a partner’s body, possessions, pets, or children.
- Unwanted isolation from family and friends.
- Name-calling, taunts, constant criticism or put-downs; ridiculing of religious faith or using religion as a means of control.
Power and Control
As described earlier, relationship violence is rooted in power and control. If you look at the wheel below, you can see how most aspects of abuse are not physical, but are emotional, sexual, and even economic. Physical violence, which is in the rim of the wheel, is the force that is used to keep someone under control when the behaviors inside the spokes do not work.
These behaviors may vary for married couples with children, dating couples, or same-sex couples. As you may notice, there are many ways that one person can exert power and control over a partner. Victims of abuse are constantly in a state of tension or “second-guessing” the abuser to anticipate what might make him/her angry. They often talk about “walking on eggshells” in fear that something will trigger an increase in violence. And yet, most abuse victims describe the emotional abuse as being far worse than the physical violence, largely because they begin to feel “crazy” or like they are losing their minds. Because they become isolated from their family and friends, their only reality check is the abuser. Thus, reality becomes distorted. This is why it’s so important to stay in touch with anyone you may know who is in an abusive relationship; the more isolated they become from their support system, the more dangerous their situation becomes.
Helping a Victim of Relationship Violence
If someone you know is a victim of relationship abuse, here are ways you can help:
- Avoid shaming the victim. Remember that your friend or family member did not ask to be abused and it may be difficult to get out of a relationship due to finances, children, dependency issues, and/or lack of a support system.
- Develop a safety plan with the victim.
- Listen to the victim and let him/her know that you are there to support him/her.
- Provide University resources and off-campus resources. Explain to the victim what his/her options are without making decisions for the victim or pushing him/her to make a decision. When the victim is ready, he/she will make the choice to leave.
* Sources: Iowa State University & University of Virginia
Sexual Violence and Relationship Violence
Sexual violence isn’t different when it happens between partners in an ongoing or committed relationship. It can occur in non-violent relationships, but it’s more common in relationships with other abusive or violent patterns. Estimates that sexual violence occurs in relationships with domestic violence are as high as 70%.
No matter what kind of relationship you’re in, sexual violence victims all have the same rights. If you’re in a violent relationship, you should consider if you are also being sexually assaulted. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
|Is it sexual assault if my spouse, partner, boyfriend of girlfriend forces me?||Yes. Even if you’re married or in a committed relationship, being sexually forced without your consent is sexual assault. You have the right to say “no” to your spouse, partner, boyfriend or girlfriend. Connecticut law provides that no spouse or cohabitor shall compel the other spouse or cohabitor to engage in sexual intercourse by the use of force against such other spouse or cohabitor, or by the threat of the use of force against such other spouse or cohabitor which reasonably causes such other spouse or cohabitor to fear physical injury.|
|Doesn’t sexual assault only happen in violent relationships?||No. Sexual assault can and does happen in any type of relationship. It doesn’t have to be violent to be unwanted. Sexual assault is far more common in violent relationships, but it can occur in relationships that are otherwise non-violent, even respectful.|
|Isn’t being sexually assaulted by a stranger worse than by your partner?||Orders may be put in place for a current or former family member, household member, dating partner or spouse and may protect animals owned or kept by the victim. Orders may protect minor children if they are identified as victims of the crime for which the abuser was arrested.|
|A judge may grant the victim temporary custody of children.||No. Sexual assault causes trauma even if the offender is a loved one. Victims of partner or spousal sexual assault often face special challenges, including: