Relationship violence information

Relationship violence is a pattern of coercive control that one person exercises to gain power over another. Abusers use physical and sexual violence, threats, emotional insults and economic deprivation as a way to dominate their partners and get their way.

Violence facts and statistics

Education and awareness are the first steps to preventing relationship violence.

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Characteristics of violence

Violence is characterized by:

  • physical abuse
  • economic abuse
  • emotional abuse
  • verbal abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • isolation
  • control

Facts and statistics

Statistics from the Victim/Witness Services for Coconino County reveal that:

  • in 2001, women accounted for 85 percent of the victims of intimate partner violence and men accounted for approximately 15 percent of the victims.
  • nearly 25 percent of American women report being raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabitating partner, or date at some time in their life
  • approximately one in five female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a partner
  • as many as 95 percent of all domestic violence perpetrators are male
  • in Arizona, a woman is murdered by her husband or boyfriend every four days; in 2004, there were 80 domestic violence related homicides in Arizona
  • pregnant women and women who recently gave birth are more likely to be victims of homicide than to die of any other cause; a significant proportion of all female homicide victims are killed by their intimate partners

Furthermore, it is important to realize that:

  • relationship violence is the single major cause of injury to women
  • violence against women is present in every country, cutting across boundaries of class, culture, education, ethnicity, sexual orientation and age
  • relationship violence among gay and lesbian couples occurs at the same statistical frequency as in heterosexual relationships

Northern Arizona University statistics

A 2005 Northern Arizona University Health and Wellness survey revealed that:

  • in 2005, 14.2 percent of female students and 10.9 percent of male students reported being victims in a verbally abusive relationship during that year
  • three percent of females and two percent of males reported being in a physically abusive relationship during that year

Warning signs of perpetrators

There are many types of violence perpetrators. Some are loudly aggressive, while others are quiet and passive in public. Some are gregarious, while others are loners. Many are attractive and popular, model students from model families.

The following are common behaviors of violent partners.

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Alcohol or drug use

Some perpetrators rely on alcohol or drugs to release them from their normal inhibitions or to give them the “courage” to become more aggressive toward their victim.

Possessiveness or jealousy

Whether in public or private, possessiveness and jealous accusations often precede and follow violence. The abuser will often attempt to socially isolate their partner by forbidding them to see or talk to others or by making frequent accusations of infidelity, which forces the victim to limit their social life in order to appease the abuser.

Harassment or threats

Failure to accept the breakup of a relationship is a common indicator of physical abuse. Often victims are abused or threatened when they try to break off the relationship.

Suicide attempts or threats of suicide over a relationship

Suicidal gestures or threats can be intended to manipulate the victim into staying in the relationship. In some cases they can be accompanied by physical abuse or threats of homicide.

Marked changes in mood or personality

Extreme agitation, depression, social withdrawal, or aggressiveness can be tip-offs to relational conflict or violence.

Fights with others about partner

This can indicate a pattern of jealous accusations or possessive control toward the victim. The perpetrator may be constantly monitoring their partner’s interactions with others, even after they have broken up.

When to get help

If any of these behaviors seem familiar and you think you may be in an abusive relationship, remember: you do not deserve to be hurt or threatened.

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Some abusive partners display warning signs. However, this is not always the case. Some possible warning signs to look for in a partner include:

  • impulsivity
  • blaming others for problems and feelings
  • jealous and controlling behavior
  • isolation from others
  • hypersensitivity

Does your partner:

  • put you down, humiliate, or embarrass you?
  • make you feel sad, angry, or embarrassed when you are with them?
  • lose his or her temper easily?
  • cause you to feel afraid of them?
  • ever physically hurt you?
  • abuse alcohol or other drugs?
  • ever force you into doing anything sexually?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, it is a warning that you could be in a potentially dangerous relationship and you should seek help.

Safety plan

Take your safety seriously. If you feel unsafe or threatened by your partner, think of ways to protect yourself. It is important to have a safety plan, especially as you prepare to end the relationship.

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If you are not comfortable breaking up with your partner at the moment, follow the tips below to feel safer in the relationship. If you are still with the abuser, you should:

  • tell friends or family and get them to help protect you by being around when your partner is there
  • try not to be alone with them
  • think of ways to stay in control of the situation; for example, if you are out, arrange another way of getting home rather than going with them, or avoid incapacitating yourself with drugs or alcohol.
  • have an excuse prepared so you can leave quickly if you feel uncomfortable or scared
  • have a code word or signal that you can use to get friends to help you
  • memorize or write down the number of the police so you can call them if you are in danger
  • Northern Arizona University Police Department: 928-523-3611
  • Flagstaff Police Department: 928-774-1414
  • consider breaking up with your partner  over the phone, rather than in person, if you are scared of their reaction, or do it when others are around

After you have broken up with the abuser:

  • have an answering machine or someone else take messages from them if they try to contact you
  • arrange a safe place to stay where they can't contact you
  • talk to someone about what you could do legally to protect yourself from any more violence; Victim/Witness Services of Coconino County can provide legal advice and support.

Do you have a friend in trouble?

The following includes suggestions on how to provide support to a friend or someone in your family you suspect is the victim of violence.

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If you have a friend that you believe is in a potentially dangerous relationship:

  • approach them about the abuse in a sensitive way
  • believe what they tell you, as it will have taken a lot for them to talk to you and trust you
  • take the abuse seriously
  • focus on their safety
  • help them to recognize the abuse and understand how it may be affecting them
  • help them to understand that the abuse is not their fault and that no one deserves to be abused
  • listen to them and help them think about the relationship; whether they want to break up or stay, and how they can protect him/herself from any more abuse
  • offer help to protect them, but only if you are not putting your own safety at risk
  • encourage them to talk to a counselor, or talk to a counselor yourself about what you could do to support the victim

Avoid:

  • blaming the victim for the abuse or asking judgmental questions like, "what did you do to make him/her treat you like that?" or "why don't you just break up with him/her?"
  • focusing on trying to work out the abuser's reasons for the abuse; concentrate on supporting the victim and on what they can do to protect him/herself
  • acting impatient or critical if they are confused about what to do, or if they say that they still love their partner; it's difficult for anyone to break up a relationship, and especially hard if they are being abused.

Constructive questions you could ask include:

  • "What can I do to help?"
  • "How has his behavior made you feel? How is it affecting you?"
  • "How have you been coping with the abuse?"
  • "What can you do to make yourself safer?"
  • "What are you afraid of if you leave?"
  • "What are you afraid of if you stay?"