Dating violence is a pattern of coercive behavior used by someone to control their intimate partner. The coercive behavior is typically represented by the Power and Control Wheel. The center of the wheel is Power and Control—Perpetrators use the tactics in order to gain or maintain power and control over their partner.
Dating violence can happen to anyone, no matter their race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity, age, religion, educational level, or socio-economic status.
How to Help a Friend
CONSIDER THE WHERE, WHEN, AND HOW:
Talk to your friend in a private one-on-one setting away from their partner. Be kind and complimentary and try to make your friend feel comfortable. You can say things like, “It’s been so long since we’ve seen each other. I’ve missed you!” or “How have you been? We haven’t talked in a while.”
Let your friend do most of the talking about their relationship and allow them to share on their own terms. Listen with an open mind and let your friend know they are not alone and you want to help.
Focus on Feelings:
Ask your friend how their partner’s behavior makes them feel. For example, “It seems like your partner doesn’t like you hanging out with your friends. How does that make you feel?” Gently point out the behavior that is causing you concern and be honest about how that would make you feel. For example, “If my partner always wanted to know where I was, that would make me feel suffocated and not trusted.”
Reassure your friend that what they are experiencing in their relationship is not normal and it’s not their fault. For example, if your friend says, “My partner screamed at me because I didn’t answer my phone,” focus on the fact that their partner screamed at them and that is not ok. No one deserves to be disrespected in their relationship or feel afraid of their partner.
Trust your friend to do what’s right for them. It can be dangerous to encourage them to just break up with their partner and that might not be what your friend wants. Remember that your friend is experiencing controlling behavior from their partner and you don’t want to mirror that behavior by telling them what to do.
You can suggest your friend talk with an expert to get more information and resources for support.
Keep the Conversation Open:
Let your friend know that they can come and talk to you when they need. You will likely need to have ongoing conversations with your friend as they start to feel more comfortable reaching out for support.
Take Care of Yourself:
It can be a lot to listen to a close friend talk about their unhealthy or abusive relationship. Make sure you have supports for yourself and reach out to resources to process what is happening for you. Remember that abuse hotlines also provide supportive services to friends of victims/survivors.
I'm worried about you.
How do you feel about that?
It hurts me to see you so upset
No one deserves to be treated that way
If you feel something is off, then you are probably right
Relationship Red Flags
It’s not about how a relationship starts, but how it evolves over time:
You stop hanging out with anyone except your partner
You no longer participate in activities you used to
Your partner belittles your friends and family
You start to feel suffocated
They say "I Love You" before you're ready
They want to know where you are and who you're with at all times
Something feels off
They show up randomly when you don't expect it
You avoid bringing up certain topics with your partner
You spend a lot of time thinking about how they will react to things you do/say
You feel like you have to ask permissioin before doing anything
You withhold information from family and friends to avoid having to explain things or make excuses
Know the difference between love and abuse.
Click a wedge of the wheel to learn more.
Using Emotional Abuse
Name calling/put downs
No support for goals/ambitions
Cheating on you
Repeated accusations of cheating or lying, etc.
Excessive checking in
Cussing you out
Using slurs against you
Purposefully misgendering/deadnaming you
The silent treatment
Emotional rollercoaster (I love you/I hate you)
Going through your phone/personal items
Ruining outside friendships
Controlling who you can and cannot spend time with
Excessive phone calls or texts
If you are paying attention to your phone, you aren’t present for your friends
It might start out innocuous and then progress to angry exchanges through text
Not allowing you to spend time without them or making it hard to do so
Not allowing you to participate in activities outside the relationship or making it hard to do so
Controlling social media
Demanding passwords to phone/email/social media
Demanding location sharing
Constantly checking in about your whereabouts, who you’re spending time with, etc.
Using jealousy to justify these behaviors
Soliciting sympathy from others about your behavior
Using Economic Abuse
Preventing you from getting or keeping a job
Controlling all the money in the household
Taking all your money/shaming you for spending money
Limiting your access to family income
Taking out credit cards/loans in your name
Spending money on themselves and not you
Using Coercion and Threats
To spread rumors or expose secrets
To specific people, at school, or on social media
To self-harm if they leave you
Important to seek help from an authority figure if dealing with this
To out partner against their will
To report undocumented family members
To tell parents/school/authorities about rule breaking or illegal activity
To end the relationship
To release revenge porn
To use physical violence
Make you do something illegal or break the rules
Make you drop charges/recant accusations
Threatening to break up with you if you don’t perform sexually
Pressuring you into having sex
Using drugs or alcohol to take advantage of you
Refusing to practice safe sex
Stealthing—removing condom during sex without partner’s knowledge (illegal!)
Negotiating for sexual favors
“Everyone else is doing it”
“You’ve done this before”
Using Children and Pets
Using children as messengers
Making you feel guilty about the children/pets
e.g. “You’re a bad parent for hanging out with your friends”
Using court-ordered visitation to harass you
Threatening to call CPS or take your children/pet away
Threatening the safety of a pet if you disobey rules/try to leave the relationship
Hurting children or pets to force compliance
Turning children against you
Not allowing you to parent or discipline your children
Minimizing, Denying, and Blaming
Making someone question their feelings by saying they’re overreacting
e.g. Your partner hurts your feelings and instead of apologizing they say you misunderstood what they mean, or you’re blowing things out of proportion
Calling you crazy or minimizing your feelings
Making light of the abuse
e.g. “I barely touched you”
Blaming drugs or alcohol for behavior
I only said that because I was drunk, etc.
Saying unhealthy behavior is a normal part of relationships
Denying behavior is abusive or harmful
Saying “I did X because you did Y”
Instilling fear in you with gestures or looks
Blocking the doorway
Standing over you
Driving recklessly while you’re in the car
Following or watching you from a distance
Showing up where you are unexpectedly
Making unwanted contact via phone calls, texts, social media messages, or gifts
Spying on you via social media, spyware, GPS devices, etc.
Using Social Status
Treating you like a servant
Someone with more power targeting someone with less power and using that power over them
e.g. age, wealth, ability, etc.
Having an attitude of being able to do whatever they want
Saying that their needs/wants/activities/feelings are more important than yours
Dictating relationship rules or roles
Not allowing you to have any say in decision making
Using friend group against you
“If we break up, all our friends will choose me over you”
Controlling what you wear
e.g. makeup, clothing, etc.