Dating violence

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.

Relationship Red Flags

How to Help a Friend

How to Help a Friend


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.”

Be Supportive:

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.

Offer Solutions:

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.

Helpful Phrases:
  • 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

  • Humiliation

  • 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)

  • Guilt-tripping

  • Condescension

  • Going through your phone/personal items

Using Isolation

  • 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 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.

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

  • Gaslighting

    • 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”

Using Intimidation

  • Destroying property

  • Punching walls

  • Throwing objects

  • Instilling fear in you with gestures or looks

    • Flexing

    • Blocking the doorway

    • Standing over you

  • Driving recklessly while you’re in the car

  • Stalking

    • 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.

  • Displaying weapons