Relationship Violence


Relationship violence is physical, sexual, psychological, and verbal abuse within a dating relationship and includes stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and might be between a current or former partner.

  • Physical Abuse: Any behavior that causes or threatens bodily harm. This may include, hitting, kicking, biting, etc. and/or threatening to do these things.

  • Sexual Abuse: Any behavior that involves forcible sexual activity that occurs without consent. This includes touching as well as penetration. Lewd comments and verbal criticism of one’s body are also considered sexual abuse.

  • Psychological Abuse: A form of abuse characterized by subjecting or exposing someone to behavior that may result in psychological trauma including anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This can include humiliation and intimidation.  

  • Verbal Abuse: A form of abuse that uses words to harm another person. Similar to emotional abuse this can include humiliation and intimidation. It may also include threats of physical or sexual abuse.

The Cycle of Violence (Walker, 1979)
Provides an illustration of the manner in which violence/abuse often becomes a pattern within a relationship. While physical abuse may only happen one time, there is usually underlying psychological and verbal abuse. This causes the continuous cycle. There are typically three stages in the cycle:

Stage 1: Tension Building
During this stage there is an escalation of tension and feeling as though you are “walking on egg shells.” It is common for a decrease in communication with your partner and a struggle to compromise on issues. As issues continue to be put to the side and remain unresolved, the tension builds. As the tension builds it is common for the complainant to become more passive as the respondent becomes more oppressive. One may experience an increase in arguments and minor physical abuse such as pushing and shoving. This stage varies in length of time but becomes more frequent as the cycle is repeated.

Stage 2: Violent Episode
After the tension has been building it finally erupts and there is physical violence. The respondent is unable to manage his/her anger and strikes out. This is usually the result of an outside event but is often portrayed as being caused by the complainant which is never the case. This may cause a feeling of “relief” because the tension is gone. However, you partner has now “learned” that the abusive behavior “helps” ease the strain on the relationship.

Stage 3: Remorseful/Honeymoon
In this phase the respondent is very apologetic and remorseful. There may be apologies, gifts, and promises all in hope of gaining forgiveness that it will not happen again. Seeing this soft side and display of emotions may bring back fond memories and glimpses of the person that he/she fell in love with causing him/her to stay in the relationship hoping that it will get better. After a period of time the loving behavior begins to disappear and the cycle repeats itself.

Over time the cycle changes. The remorseful/honeymoon phase becomes shorter and the violence increases and/or intensifies.  

Here are some things to look for when comparing healthy and unhealthy relationships:

Equality – Partners share decisions and responsibilities. They discuss roles to make sure they’re fair and equal. Control – One partner makes all the decisions and tells the other what to do, or tells the other person what to wear or who to spend time with.
Honesty – Partners share their dreams, fears and concerns with each other. They tell each other how they feel and share important information. Dishonesty – One partner lies to or keeps information from the other, One partner steals from the other.
Physical Safety – Partners feel physically safe in the relationships and respect each other’s space. Physical Abuse – one Partner uses force to get his/her way (for example, hitting, slapping, grabbing, shoving).
Respect – Partners treat each other like they want to be treated and accept each other’s opinions, friends and interest. They listen to each other. Disrespect – One partner makes fun of the opinions and interests of the other partner. He or she may destroy something that belongs to the other person.
Comfort – Partners feel safe with each other and respect each other’s differences. They realize when they’re wrong and are not afraid to say, “I’m sorry.” Partner can be “themselves” with each other. Intimidation – One partner tries to control every aspect of the other’s life. One partner may attempt to keep his or her partner from friends and family or threaten violence or a break-up.
Sexual Respectfulness – Partners never force sexual activity or insist on doing something the other isn’t comfortable with. Sexual Abuse – One partner pressures or forces the other into sexual activity against his/her will or without his/her consent.
Independence – Neither partner is dependent upon the other for an identity. Partners maintain friendships outside of the relationship. Either partner has the right to end the relationship. Dependence – One partner feels that he/she “can’t live without” the other. He/she may threaten to do something drastic if the relationship ends.
Humor – The relationship is enjoyable for both partners. Partners laugh and have fun. Hostility – One partner may “walk on eggshells” to avoid upsetting the other. Teasing is mean-spirited.

From: Center for Disease Control and Prevention – Choose Respect Action Kit

Getting Help

If you feel that you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, Lewis University encourages you to seek help and report the incident.

Please visit our Reaching out for Help page for more information and the resources available to you.


Lewis University encourages you to contact LUPD if you have experienced relationship violence while on campus.

Visit our Title IX at Lewis University page to learn more about the Title IX investigation and your rights.

If you are or have been a complainant of relationship violence by a faculty or staff person, please contact Lori Misheck at (815) 836-5272 or to file a report.

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