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Relationships & Violence Prevention


*Courtesy of loveisrespect.org.

Healthy relationships allow for individuality, bring out the best in both people, and invite personal growth.  Developing meaningful relationships is a concern for all of us. Getting close to others, sharing our joys, sorrows, needs, wants, affections, and excitement are all involved in healthy relationships.

Communication is a key part to building a healthy relationship. The first step is making sure you both want and expect the same things -- being on the same page is very important. The following tips can help you create and maintain a healthy relationship:

  • Speak Up. In a healthy relationship, if something is bothering you, it’s best to talk about it instead of holding it in.
  • Respect Your Partner. Your partner's wishes and feelings have value. Let your significant other know you are making an effort to keep their ideas in mind. Mutual respect is essential in maintaining healthy relationships.
  • Compromise. Disagreements are a natural part of healthy relationships, but it’s important that you find a way to compromise if you disagree on something. Try to solve conflicts in a fair and rational way.
  • Be Supportive. Offer reassurance and encouragement to your partner. Also, let your partner know when you need their support. Healthy relationships are about building each other up, not putting each other down.
  • Respect Each Other’s Privacy. Just because you’re in a relationship, doesn’t mean you have to share everything and constantly be together. Healthy relationships require space.

Healthy Boundaries

Creating boundaries is a good way to keep your relationship healthy and secure. By setting boundaries together, you can both have a deeper understanding of the type of relationship that you and your partner want. Boundaries are not meant to make you feel trapped or like you’re “walking on eggshells.” Creating boundaries is not a sign of secrecy or distrust -- it's an expression of what makes you feel comfortable and what you would like or not like to happen within the relationship. Remember, healthy boundaries shouldn’t restrict your ability to:

  • Go out with your friends without your partner.
  • Participate in activities and hobbies you like.
  • Not have to share passwords to your email, social media accounts or phone.
  • Respect each other’s individual likes and needs.

Healthy Relationship Boosters

Even healthy relationships can use a boost now and then. You may need a boost if you feel disconnected from your partner or like the relationship has gotten stale. If so, find a fun, simple activity you both enjoy, like going on a walk, and talk about the reasons why you want to be in the relationship. Then, keep using healthy behaviors as you continue dating.

What Isn't a Healthy Relationship?

Relationships that are not healthy are based on power and control, not equality and respect. In the early stages of an abusive relationship, you may not think the unhealthy behaviors are a big deal. However, possessiveness, insults, jealous accusations, yelling, humiliation, pulling hair, pushing or other negative, abusive behaviors, are -- at their root -- exertions of power and control. Remember that abuse is always a choice and you deserve to be respected. There is no excuse for abuse of any kind.

If you think your relationship is unhealthy, it's important to think about your safety now. Consider these points as you move forward:

  • Understand that a person can only change if they want to. You can't force your partner to alter their behavior if they don't believe they're wrong.
  • Focus on your own needs. Are you taking care of yourself? Your wellness is always important. Watch your stress levels, take time to be with friends, get enough sleep. If you find that your relationship is draining you, consider ending it.
  • Connect with your support systems. Often, abusers try to isolate their partners. Talk to your friends, family members, teachers and others to make sure you're getting the emotional support you need. Remember, our advocates are always ready to talk if you need a listening ear.
  • Think about breaking up. Remember that you deserve to feel safe and accepted in your relationship.

Even though you cannot change your partner, you can make changes in your own life to stay safe. Consider leaving your partner before the abuse gets worse. Whether you decide to leave or stay, make sure to use our safety planning tips to stay safe.

For help in thinking about a relationship you may be in...

Contact The Phoenix Center, MSU Denver's Counseling Center, or find additional on- and off-campus organizations in the Resource page.

What is Interpersonal Violence?

*Courtesy of The Phoenix Center.

It is really important to understand what Interpersonal Violence (IPV) is so that we can identify it when it occurs. So often we think we know what it is and how it happens but in reality our understanding may not be accurate. IPV is defined as sexual assault, stalking, and relationship violence and involves issues of domestic and dating violence. All IPV incorporates elements of Power and Control Wheel. In all instances, the survivor of the abuse is never to blame. The person who commits the act of violence makes the choice to hurt someone else and the blame rests solely on the perpetrator’s shoulders.

Sexual Assault: this is an umbrella term that refers to any sexual activity where one person has not gained permission (consent) from the other person for the sexual activity.

Relationship Violence (Domestic and Dating Violence): this is a pattern of abuse that occurs in a relationship, whether you are (or have been) in a committed partnership, married, or dating. Abuse can be physical (e.g: hitting, pushing etc), emotional (e.g: making someone feel they are worthless or stupid), verbal (e.g: name calling, put downs), financial (e.g: withholding money).

Stalking: is a purposeful course of action, directed at a specific person that causes that person to be afraid, fearful, or intimidated. Stalking can occur during a relationship, after a relationship, or in the absence of a relationship.

For federal and state definitions of domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, visit the Definitions page.

Relationship Violence Warning Signs

*Courtesy of University of Buffalo

Pay Attention to Cues When You Are Getting to Know Someone

  • Tells you who you may be friends with, how you should dress, or tries to control other elements of your life or relationship.
  • Gets jealous when there is no reason.
  • Drinks heavily, uses drugs, or tries to get you drunk.
  • Berates you for not wanting to get drunk, get high, have sex, or go with him/her to an isolated or personal place.
  • Refuses to let you share any of the expenses of a date and gets angry when you offer to pay.
  • Is physically violent to you or others, even if it's "just" grabbing and pushing to get his/her way.
  • Acts in an intimidating way toward you by invading your "personal space" (sits too close, speaks as if he/she knows you much better than he/she does, touches you when you tell him/her not to).
  • Is unable to handle sexual and emotional frustrations without becoming angry.
  • Does not view you as an equal--because he/she is older or sees him/herself as smarter or socially superior.
  • A man who thinks poorly of himself and guards his masculinity by acting tough.
  • Goes through extreme mood changes (highs & lows).
  • Is angry and threatening to the extent that you have changed your life so as not to anger him/her.

Preventing Sexual Violence

When we think about alternatives to vulnerability, we must be careful not to assume that there is always something a person "could have done" to prevent an assault. This is blaming the victim. When a person is sexually assaulted, it is the assaulter who is to blame.

In addition, sexual assaults, including those committed by acquaintances, may be violent and unexpected. This means that even when a person is able to assert what s/he wants, there is no guarantee that his/her feelings will be respected.

There are no formulas that can guarantee our safety from sexual assault. In a situation that is becoming coercive or violent, the moment is often too confusing to plan an escape, and people react in various ways. Some will fight back. Others will not fight back for any number of reasons such as fear, self-blame, or not wanting to hurt someone who may be a close friend. While fighting and giving up are both extreme reactions, it is important to realize that any reaction is legitimate. Again, the burden of responsibility must be on the attacker, not the victim.

Remember that date rape is a crime. It is never acceptable to use force in sexual situations, no matter what the circumstances.

Be Aware

  • Be an active partner in a relationship. Arranging where to meet, what to do, and when to be intimate should all be shared decisions.
  • Listen carefully. Take the time to hear what the other person is saying. If you feel s/he is not being direct or is giving you a "mixed message", ask for a clarification.
  • Know your sexual intentions and limits. You have the right to say "No" to any unwanted sexual contact. If you are uncertain about what you want, ask the person to respect your feelings.
  • Communicate your limits firmly and directly. If you say "No", say it like you mean it. Don't give mixed messages. Back up your words with a firm tone of voice and clear body language.
  • Don't assume that your date will automatically know how you feel, or will eventually "get the message" without your having to tell him or her.
  • Don't fall for the common stereotype that when a person says "No" it really means "Yes". "No" means "No". If someone says "No" to sexual contact, believe it and stop.
  • Remember that some people think that drinking heavily, dressing provocatively, or going to a person's room indicates a willingness to have sex. Be especially careful to communicate your limits and intentions clearly in such situations.
  • Be aware that having sex with someone who is mentally or physically incapable of giving consent is rape. If you have sex with someone who is drugged, intoxicated, passed out, incapable of saying "No", or unaware of what is happening, you may be guilty of rape.
  • Don't make assumptions about a person's behavior. Don't automatically assume that someone wants to have sex just because s/he drinks heavily, dresses provocatively, or agrees to go to your room. Don't assume that just because the other person has had sex with you previously s/he is willing to have sex with you again. Also don't assume that just because the person consents to kissing or other sexual intimacies s/he is willing to have sexual intercourse.
  • Listen to your gut feelings. If you feel uncomfortable or think you may be at risk, leave the situation immediately and go to a safe place.
  • Be especially careful in group situations. Be prepared to resist pressure from friends to participate in violent or criminal acts.
  • Attend large parties with friends you can trust. Agree to "look out" for one another. Try to leave with a group, rather than alone or with someone you don't know very well.
  • Don't be afraid to "make waves" if you feel threatened. If you feel you are being pressured or coerced into sexual activity against your will, don't hesitate to state your feelings and get out of the situation. Better a few minutes of social awkwardness or embarrassment than the trauma of sexual assault.

Be Active

  • Get involved if you believe someone is at risk. If you see a person in trouble at a party or a friend using force or pressuring another person, don't be afraid to intervene. You may save someone from the trauma of sexual assault and your friend from the ordeal of criminal prosecution.
  • Confront others' rape jokes and remarks; explain to others why these jokes are not funny and the harm they can cause.
  • Confront other people's harassment--verbal or physical. Harassment is not experienced as flattery, but as a threat.
  • Educate others about what rape really is. Help them to clear up any misconceptions they might have.
  • Ask someone who you don't recognize what they are doing in your dorm or residence, or who it is they are looking for.
  • Confront potential rape scenes. When you see someone verbally harassing another person, stand by to see if s/he the person being harassed needs help. If someone is hitting or holding a person against his or her will, do something immediately to help.
  • When walking in groups or even alone be conscious as you approach another person. Be aware of how afraid that person might feel, and give him or her space on the street if possible.
  • Be supportive of person's actions to control their own lives and make their own decisions. Don't be afraid to express these ideas.
  • If someone you know has expressed violent feelings or demonstrated violent behavior in a particular relationship, try to help him or her find an appropriate person with whom to talk (such as a counselor, RA, clergy, etc).

10 Things Anyone Can Do To Help Prevent Sexual Assault

  1. Be aware of language. Words are very powerful, especially when spoken by people with power over others. When we see women as inferior, it becomes easier to treat them with less respect, disregard their rights, and ignore their well-being.
  2. Communicate. Sexual violence often goes hand in hand with poor communication. Our discomfort with talking honestly and openly about sex dramatically raises the risk of rape. By learning effective sexual communication -- stating your desires clearly, listening to your partner, and asking when the situation is unclear – you can make sex safer for yourself and others.
  3. Speak up. You will probably never see a rape in progress, but you will see and hear attitudes and behaviors that degrade women and promote rape. When your best friend tells a joke about rape, say you don’t think it’s funny. When you read an article that blames a rape survivor for being assaulted, write a letter to the editor. When laws are proposed that limit women’s rights, let politicians know that you won’t support them. Do anything but remain silent.
  4. Support survivors of rape. Rape will not be taken seriously until everyone knows how common it is. By learning to sensitively support survivors in their lives, we can help both women and other men feel safer to speak out about being raped and let the world know how serious a problem rape is.
  5. Contribute Your Time and/or Money. Donate your time or money to an organization working to prevent violence against women in our community.
  6. Organize. Join an organization dedicated to stopping interpersonal violence.
  7. Talk with women... about how the risk of being raped affects their daily lives; about how they want to be supported if it has happened to them; about what they think men can do to prevent sexual violence. If you’re willing to listen, you can learn a lot from women about the impact of rape and how to stop it.
  8. Talk with men... about how it feels to be seen as a potential rapist; about the fact that 10-20% of all males will be sexually abused in their lifetimes; about whether they know someone who’s been raped. Learn about how sexual violence touches the lives of men and what we can do to stop it.
  9. Work to end ALL oppressions. Rape feeds off many other forms of prejudice -- including racism, homophobia, and religious discrimination. By speaking out against any beliefs and behaviors, including rape, that promote one group of people as superior to another and deny other groups their full humanity, you support everyone’s equality.

Always make sure it’s consensual. If you’re going to have sex, make sure that it’s consensual. Consensual sex is when both partners are freely and willingly agreeing to whatever sexual activity is occurring. Consent is an active process, you cannot assume you have consent – you need to ask. Consent cannot be given legally when an individual is intoxicated.  Visit our section for more information.

Loveisrespect.org Student Safety Plan