If you are in immediate danger, call 911 or the GW Police Department.

      Call 911       Call 202-994-6111 (GWPD)

If you are not in immediate danger, call GW Sexual Assault Response & Consultation (SARC) for help.

Call 202-994-7222

 

 

Relationship Abuse

Relationship abuse refers to physical, sexual, or psychological harm (or threats of harm) by a current or former intimate partner. It is also referred to as:

  • domestic violence

  • dating violence

  • intimate partner violence

Patterns of power and controlling behavior exerted by one partner over another can occur through force, threats of violence, manipulation, or other means.

Talk to Someone About Relationship Abuse 

If you’re experiencing signs of relationship abuse, please talk to someone to learn how you can get help.

Talk to Someone

Who It Affects

Relationship abuse can happen in:

  • marriages

  • long term committed partnerships

  • cohabitation

  • casual dating relationships

  • social relationships where there is sexual or intimate contact

  • relationships that have ended


The way you describe your relationship doesn’t matter-- you deserve to be safe and happy in your relationship.  

Relationship abuse happens to people of all genders, sexual orientations, ages, races and ethnicities, cultural and religious backgrounds, economic situations, geographical setting, and other social identities.

The details and mechanisms might be different, but the essence is still the same: abusers seek to control their intimate partners through fear and intimidation.

Kinds of Relationship Abuse 

You may think of domestic violence or relationship abuse as only physical abuse. Relationship abuse sometimes involves physical violence, but every situation is different and there may be other signs when a partner exerts power, dominance, and control.

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is any act of physical harm committed by a partner against another. This can involve:

  • hitting
  • kicking
  • pushing
  • restraining
  • shoving
  • choking
  • destroying/threatening property or pets
  • threatening physical harm

The abuse can be direct, using hands or feet, or be committed with weapons or household objects.

 

Physical abuse does not always result in visible signs like bruises or cuts. Physical abuse can also mean:

  • withholding medical attention
  • depriving someone of food, water, or sleep
  • forcing someone to consume drugs or alcohol

Sexual abuse

Sexual assault is any sexual contact without consent, regardless of the kind of relationship involved.

Sexual abuse within a relationship can occur in single incidents or in patterns where the violated partner’s wishes are disregarded.

 

In addition to engaging in non-consensual sexual behavior, sexual abuse refers to pressuring, forcing, demanding, or manipulating someone into crossing other sexual boundaries. These boundaries can be about:

  • specific kinds of sexual activity
  • privacy of the sexual activity
  • when and where sex takes place

 

It is sexually abusive to disregard a partner’s wishes or needs regarding pregnancy or STI prevention. This can involve refusing to use a condom or other barrier, forcing pregnancy or pregnancy termination, or knowingly infecting someone with an STI.

Verbal, psychological, and emotional abuse

Emotional, psychological, and verbal abuse are patterns of power and control exerted over a partner that rely on intimidation, manipulation, and words rather than physical violence or threats.
 
Verbal and emotional tactics can include name calling, insults, and constant or unwarranted criticism.
 
Psychological abuse tactics can include:
  • making someone doubt their own understanding of reality (gas lighting)
  • withholding affection
  • belittling
  • humiliating behaviors
 
This category can also refer to other ways of controlling and limiting a partner, such as:
  • monitoring their movements
  • demanding an accounting of activity
  • isolating a person from friends or family
  • preventing someone from leaving a room or a home
 

Electronic abuse

Electronic (or digital) abuse is the use of technology to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate a partner. This involves texts, social media, phones, and other media.

 

Some examples include:

  • hacking into or demanding passwords for social media and email accounts
  • sending negative or unwanted messages including those of a sexual nature
  • constant texting or monitoring of location and activity using phones or media
  • looking through a partner’s phone or making demands about what sorts of activity they are “allowed” to engage in

Financial abuse

Financial abuse is when a partner exerts power over another using money and resources. This often looks like one partner controlling all access to money and all decisions regarding the finances.

 

Examples might include:

  • not giving access to bank accounts
  • monitoring all spending
  • stealing money or maxing out a partner’s credit cards
  • refusing to contribute to joint expenses
  • not allowing a partner to earn money or to access money that is theirs