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voices against violence

Dating and Relationship Violence

Relationship violence defined

If there is immediate danger, call 911.

Relationship violence is a pattern of behavior in an intimate relationship that is used to establish power and control over another person. The terms dating violence, domestic violence, intimate partner violence and relationship violence all refer to a relationship in which one partner has attempted to gain power or control over another.

The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey conducted in 2015 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than one in three women and men in the U.S. are survivors of relationship violence. In 2017, the Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments (CLASE) study found that eight percent of UT Austin students who had been in a dating or marital relationship had experienced psychological dating violence and ten percent had experienced physical dating violence during their time at UT. Voices Against Violence (VAV) offers resources to students who:

  • are concerned about safety in their relationship, and/or
  • are survivors of relationship or dating violence

VAV counselors work with students to explore the impact of violence on their lives, create safety plans and explore options for personal well-being.

Relationship violence looks and feels different for every survivor. Some examples of abusive behavior follow, many of which can take place in person and/or virtually (e.g. social media, email, text). This list is not exhaustive.

  • Emotional or psychological violence: Using demeaning language and put downs, gaslighting (making someone doubt their reality), isolating or extreme jealousy
  • Physical violence: Any kind of physical force or violence (e.g. slapping, hitting). This includes threats by the perpetrator to inflict physical violence on themselves or others.
  • Sexual violence: Any form of sexual contact without consent
  • Financial abuse: Controlling a partner’s access to finances, taking on debt or opening credit cards in a partner’s name without permission, not allowing a partner to work
  • Academic abuse: Sabotaging a partner’s academic efforts by picking fights while they try to study, exercising control over a partner’s choice of classes or major

Why do people stay?

Frequently, our culture blames survivors of dating violence for their experiences rather than holding the person causing harm accountable for their actions. In reality, there are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships, and no survivor is ever at fault for their experience of violence. The following are some reasons survivors may stay in an abusive relationship:

  • Feeling scared of what will happen to them, their family or their partner if they try to leave
  • Feeling worried about what friends or family will think
  • Thinking they have no one to whom they can turn
  • Loving a partner; wanting the abuse to end but not the relationship
  • Believing they will not find anyone else with whom to be in a relationship
  • Believing the abuse is their fault

VAV counselors work with individuals to help them understand what is happening in their relationship. Counselors do not pressure anyone to end their relationship, trusting that the individual is the expert in their life. However, if there is a history of violence in a relationship, abuse is likely to continue and may escalate. Counselors are here to listen and discuss options. All appointments are confidential and are not part of a student’s academic record. Learn more about the VAV’s confidentiality policy.

Learn More

Cycles and Tactics in Violent Relationships
Red Flags and Warning Signs
Safety Planning
Common Reactions
Taking Care of Yourself
Reporting Options
Concerns Related to Identity



UT Counseling and Mental Health Center

UT Counseling and Mental Health Center Voices Against Violence
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The University of Texas at Austin - What Starts Here Changes The World