Adapted from resources produced by the National Center for Victims of Crime and Violence Prevention Works! and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dating violence is a pattern of behaviors used to exert power and control in a dating, romantic or sexual relationship. It can happen in straight or gay relationships, to people of all cultural backgrounds, and from all income and educational backgrounds. It can include controlling behaviors and verbal, emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse.

Warning Signs

It can be hard to know if you’re being abused. You may think that your long-term partner is allowed to make you have sex. That’s not true. Forced sex is rape, no matter who does it. You may think that cruel or threatening words are not abuse. They are. Sometimes emotional abuse is a sign that a person will become physically violent.

Below is a list of possible signs of abuse. Some of these are illegal. All of them are wrong.

Controlling behavior may include:

  • Not letting you hang out with your friends
  • Calling or paging you frequently to find out where you are, whom you’re with, and what you’re doing
  • Telling you what to wear
  • Having to be with you all the time
  • Stopping you from leaving
  • Monitors your behaviors and whereabouts
  • Decides things for you that you should decide (like what to wear or what to eat)

Verbal and emotional abuse may include:

  • Name-calling
  • Jealousy
  • Belittling you (cutting you down)
  • Threatening to hurt you, someone in your family, or themselves if you don’t do what they want.
  • Isolating you from friends and other people
  • Telling lies
  • Accuses you of being unfaithful to the relationship
  • Humiliates you

Physical abuse may include:

  • Shoving
  • Punching
  • Slapping
  • Pinching
  • Hitting
  • Shaking
  • Kicking
  • Hair pulling
  • Strangling

Sexual abuse may include:

  • Unwanted touching and kissing
  • Forcing you to have sex
  • Not letting you use birth control
  • Forcing you to do other sexual things

Common Reactions to Dating Violence

  • Believe it’s your fault
  • Feel angry, sad, lonely, depressed, or confused
  • Feel helpless to stop the abuse
  • Feel threatened or humiliated
  • Feel anxious
  • Confused about might happen next
  • Believe you can’t talk to family and friends
  • Worried about getting hurt more seriously
  • Feel protective of your partner
  • Unable to sleep or eat

If you are experiencing dating violence

Being a victim of dating violence is not your fault. Nothing you say, wear, or do gives anyone the right to hurt you.

Get Help

Help Yourself

Think about ways to reduce your risk of violence. This means thinking about what to do, where to go for help, and who to call ahead of time.

  • Let friends or family know when you are afraid or need help
  • When you go out, say where you are going and when you’ll be back
  • In an emergency, call 911 or call Campus Security at 651-696-6555
  • Memorize important phone numbers, such as the people to contact or places to go in an emergency
  • Keep spare change, calling cards, or a cell phone handy for immediate access to communication
  • Go out in a group or with other couples
  • Have money available for transportation if you need to take a taxi, or bus

Help Someone Else

If you know someone who might be in an abusive relationship, you can help.

  • Tell the person that you are worried
  • Be a good listener
  • Offer your friendship and support
  • Ask how you can help
  • Encourage your friend to seek help
  • Educate yourself about dating violence and healthy relationships
  • Avoid any confrontations with the abuser, this could be dangerous for you and your friend

More information on Dating Violence

  • Checklist: Am I Being Abused? – This checklist helps you identify signs of abuse, including emotional abuse. (Copyright ©
  • Domestic Violence and Abuse: Signs of Abuse and Abusive Relationships – This fact sheet describes different types of abuse and how they can affect physical and mental health. The section on emotional and verbal abuse gives specific examples of signs that indicate emotional and verbal abuse in a relationship. (Copyright ©
  • Power and Control Wheel – In an abusive relationship, power and control are repeatedly misused by an abuser. This wheel gives examples of physical, verbal, and sexual abuse and violence. (Copyright © Family Violence Prevention Fund)

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