Relationship or Intimate Partner Violence (also known as Dating Violence or Domestic Violence) is abusive behavior that is used by an intimate partner to gain or maintain power and control over the other partner. Intimate partner violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. Intimate partner violence is violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the alleged victim, where the existence of such a relationship is determined based on the following factors: the length of the relationship, the type of relationship, and the frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.

Elon University’s Sexual Misconduct and Interpersonal Violence Policy, revised August 2017

Relationship violence often escalates over time. It is not limited to any racial, ethnic, or religious group, economic or social class, sexual orientation, or age group. Although each situation is different, there are some common warning signs including:

  • Your partner tries to controls your friends, your activities and the way you spend money
  • Your partner’s moods are erratic and create constant chaos or drama
  • You feel that you cannot do anything right for your partner
  • Your partner humiliates, criticizes or yells at you, even in front of others
  • Your partner ignores or belittles your opinions or accomplishments
  • Your partner blames you for his/her abusive behavior
  • Your partner hurts you or threatens to hurt you or kill you
  • Your partner threatens to hurt himself or herself if you break up with him or her
  • Your partner forces you to engage in physical closeness sexual activity
  • Your partner destroys your property
  • Your partner threatens to “out” you for your sexual orientation or sex practices

The Cycle of Violence

The cycle of violence is a way of describing and understanding the cycles of abuse that can occur in violent relationships. The most common pattern is: Tension building -> Incident -> Reconciliation or Making Up -> Calm or “Honeymoon Phase”

  • Tension building: The tension increases and communication breaks down. The abuser becomes angry, possibly already getting angry or violence. The survivor becomes fearful and feels the need to keep the abuser calm. The survivor is “walking on eggshells” and trying to minimize the abuser’s anger, but the tension becomes overwhelming and sparks an incident.
  • Incident: Verbal, emotional, physical or sexual abuse occurs. More than one type of abuse may occur.
  • Reconciliation or Making Up: The abuser may apologize for the abuse, promise it will never happen again, blame the survivor for causing the abuse, or claim it is not as bad as the survivor claims. Sometimes the survivor might feel relieved because this signals the end of the incident, but the survivor also fears that it will happen again.
  • Calm or “Honeymoon Phase”: The incident is “forgotten” or glossed over. The abuser acts like the abuse never happened. Physical abuse may not be taking place. Promises made during ‘reconciliation’ may be met. The abuser may give the survivor gifts or do things to ‘make up’ for what happened. The survivor may hope or believe the abuse is over.
  • After a period of calm, the tension building begins again.

Safety Planning

If you are experiencing relationship violence you are strongly encouraged to seek help and support. Whether or not you stay in the relationship, you are encouraged to stay safer. Please read this safety planning resource from The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Get Help

Relationship violence can occur in all kinds of relationships regardless of age, race, sexuality, religion, economic status, ability or any other factors. If you or someone you know is experiencing relationships violence get help. If you or someone you know is under immediate threat call 911 for emergency assistance. If you or someone you know is experiencing relationship violence, but is not under immediate threat, please contact the Coordinator for Violence Response at (336) 278-5009 or through email for resources and support.

Everyone deserves to be in safe, healthy, mutually empowering relationship with their peers, families and/or partners.