Dating Violence

Dating violence can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status. On this page you will find information, legal definitions, resources, and links you can use to learn more about dating violence. An important point to remember is that no one deserves to be abused.

Table of Contents:

What is abuse?

Emotional abuse

This type of abuse is also referred to as psychological abuse. It is often the form of abuse that is most difficult for people who have never been abused to understand. When taken out of context, emotional abuse may look "normal." For example, joking about a mistake someone has made can be a normal part of a relationship. However, when it is part of ongoing insults, criticism and put-downs, it reinforces a victim's feelings of worthlessness and it is abusive. Other examples of emotional abuse include:

  • isolating the victim
    • ex: not letting them spend time with their friends or family
  • tracking everything the victim does
    • ex: checking their cell phone both calls  and texts
  • threatening to "out" the victim
  • threatening to turn friends against the victim
  • threatening suicide
  • withholding emotion
  • blaming the victim for everything
  • keeping someone from studying or doing things they enjoy
  • monitoring what they wear

People who have been abused consistently say that emotional abuse is the most difficult form of abuse to recover from. Bruises and broken bones can heal, but recovering from feeling worthless is a much harder process.

Economic abuse

Money is a difficult thing to negotiate in a healthy relationship. When someone is abusive, money becomes a way to control the victim. At UCSC, students may feel pressure to spend money that they don't have in order to fit in, and an abuser may manipulate that pressure. Economic abuse can include:

  • using the victim's credit cards or meal plan
  • ruining someone's credit
  • paying for things the victim needs and using that to manipulate the victim
  • making someone feel guilty about their financial status
  • stealing money
  • not paying bills

Sexual abuse

The most obvious form of sexual abuse involves forcing someone to have sex. More subtle forms include:

  • pressuring someone to have sex or to engage in sexual activities
  • manipulating someone into having sex, through false promises, emotional pleas or alcohol and other drugs
  • not allowing the victim to use birth control or protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections
  • forcing a woman to have an abortion -- or not allowing her to have an abortion
  • forcing someone to watch pornography
  • forcing someone to act out pornography
  • knowingly transmitting an STI to a partner

Sexual abuse in an intimate relationship can be very confusing. Because the victim has consented to be with this person sexually, they may feel that they have to agree to everything their partner wants. In a healthy relationship, a person's sexual boundaries are always respected.

Physical abuse
Physical abuse can include:

  • hitting or slapping
  • pushing, grabbing or choking
  • restraining the victim
  • burning the victim
  • hurting pets
  • damaging the victim's property
  • using weapons

In many abusive relationships, physical abuse is not very frequent. However, once someone has been physically abusive, the threat of it happening again can be a powerful way to control the victim.

The power and control wheel is a way of looking at the behaviors abusers use to get and keep control in their relationships. Battering is a choice. It is used to gain power and control over another person. Physical abuse is only one part of a system of abusive behaviors.  This wheel shows the relationship of physical abuse to other forms of abuse.

Abuse is never a onetime event.  Although domestic violence may seem unpredictable, it does in fact follow a typical pattern no matter when it occurs or who is involved. The cycle of violence repeats and can happen many times during a relationship. Each phase may last a different length of time and over time the level of violence may increase. It is important to remember that not all domestic violence relationships fit the cycle nor are everyone’s experiences the same.

What is the legal definition of domestic violence?

The legal definition of domestic violence is more limited than the definition above. All types of abuse are very real; however, some forms, such as emotional abuse, can be very difficult to prosecute in a court of law. The legal definition is provided so that you can understand the parameters of the criminal justice system as it relates to dating violence.

California law defines domestic violence as any of the following crimes when committed by one family member or household member against another or by people who are in a substantive dating relationship.

  • physical assault
  • sexual assault
  • trespass
  • kidnapping
  • vandalism
  • stalking
  • violation of a protective order
  • homicide

What are warning signs of an abusive person?

This is a list of behaviors that are seen in people who abuse their partners. The first 4 behaviors (past abuse, threats of violence, breaking objects and any force during an argument) are almost always seen in an abusive person. If someone exhibits more than 3 of any of these warning signs, there is a strong potential for abuse in the relationship. An abuser may exhibit only a few of these behaviors, but they may be quite exaggerated.

Past Abuse
An abuser may say, "I hit someone in the past, but she made me do it." An abusive person who minimizes what happened with a previous partner is likely to be violent with their current partner. Abusive behavior does not just go away; long-term counseling and a sincere desire to change are necessary.

Threats of Violence or Abuse
Threats can involve anything that is meant to control the victim. For example, "I'll tell your parents about your drug use if you don't do what I want." Healthy relationships do not involve threats, but an abusive person will try to excuse this behavior by saying that "everybody talks like that."

Breaking Objects
An abuser may break things, beat on tables or walls or throw objects around or near the victim. This behavior terrorizes the victim and can send the message that physical abuse is the next step.

Any Force During an Argument
An abuser may use force during arguments, including holding the victim down, physically restraining the victim from leaving the room, and pushing and shoving. For example, an abuser may hold a victim against the wall and say, "You're going to listen to me."

An abuser will say that jealousy is a sign of love. In reality, jealousy has nothing to do with love. It is a sign of insecurity and possessiveness. An abuser may question the victim about who they talk to or be jealous of time spent with other people. As the jealousy progresses, the abuser will call the victim frequently, stop by unexpectedly or monitor the victim's activities.

Controlling Behavior
An abuser will claim that controlling behavior is out of concern for the victim's welfare. They will be angry if the victim is late and will frequently interrogate the victim. As this behavior gets worse, the abuser will control the victim's appearance and activities.

Quick Involvement
An abuser will often pressure someone to make a commitment after a very short amount of time. The abuser comes on quickly, claiming "love at first sight," and will tell the victim flattering things such as "You're the only person I could ever love."

Unrealistic Expectations
The abuser is dependent on the victim for everything and expects perfection. The victim is expected to take care of everything for the abuser, particularly all emotional support. The abuser will say things like, "You're the only person I need in my life."

The abuser will attempt to diminish and destroy the victim's support system. If a female victim has male friends, she is accused of being a "whore." If she has female friends, she is accused of being a "lesbian." If she is close to her family, she is accused of being "tied to the apron strings." The abuser will accuse people who are close to the victim of "causing trouble."

Blames Others for Problems
Abusers will rarely admit to the part they play in causing a problem. S/he will blame the victim for almost anything that goes wrong.

Blames Others for Their Feelings
An abuser will tell the victim, "I hurt you because you made me mad, " or "You're hurting me when you don't do what I ask." Blaming the victim is a way of manipulating them and avoiding any responsibility.

An abuser can be easily insulted. The slightest setbacks are seen as personal attacks. An abuser will rage about the everyday difficulties of life as if they are injustices -- such as getting a traffic ticket or not doing well on an exam.

Cruelty to Animals or Children
An abuser may brutally punish animals or be insensitive to their pain or suffering. Pets can be used to control the victim or to emotionally abuse them.

"Playful" Use of Force During Sex
The abuser may like to hold the victim down during sex. They may want to act out sexual fantasies in which the victim is helpless. An abuser may show little concern about whether the victim wants to have sex and use sulking or anger to manipulate the victim into compliance. They may demand sex or start having sex with the victim when they are sleeping or very intoxicated.

Rigid Sex Roles
Male abusers often expect women to serve and obey them. They view women as inferior to men and believe that a woman is not a whole person without a relationship with a man.

Jekyll-and-Hyde Personality
Explosiveness and mood swings are typical of abusers, and these behaviors are related to other traits such as hypersensitivity. This is not always a sign of mental health problems but may be a way of controlling the victim by being unpredictable.

Adapted from Wilson, K.J. When Violence Begins at Home: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding and Ending Domestic Abuse. Alameda, CA: Hunter House Publishers, 1997.

What should I do if I'm being abused?

It's important to know that violence/abuse is not likely to stop on its own -- episodes of violence usually become more frequent and more severe.

  • Talk to someone you trust. It is important to break the silence.
  • If you decide to leave the relationship, develop a safety plan. A safety plan can include asking a trusted friend for help, choosing a safe place to stay, and collecting money, emergency phone numbers and a bag of clothes so you can leave quickly.
  • Seek help from one of the resources at the end of this page.

What can someone do if they are being abusive?

  • Stop using abuse of any form (physical, sexual, economic or emotional), including threats and intimidation.
  • Accept responsibility for your behavior. Remember that the use of violence is a choice and you can choose to change that behavior.
  • Do not make excuses for your violence or blame your partner for your abusive behavior.
  • Seek professional help from a qualified counselor who is knowledgeable about partner abuse.
  • Alcohol, drug use or mental health problems may make abusive situations worse but they are not excuses for abusive behavior.

How do I help a friend who's in an abusive relationship?

  • If you see someone being physically abused, call 911 immediately.
  • In many cases, the first step to safety is the knowledge that the victim is not alone and that they are not crazy. It may help your friend to know that many people experience abuse and that there are resources to get help.
  • Be supportive and respectful. Make clear statements about your friend's value and rights as a person, such as "No one deserves to be abused."
  • Listen.
  • Don’t push your friend to leave. Support the choices that s/he makes.  S/he already has someone in her/his life that is controlling.  S/he will feel empowered by not being told what to do.
  • Don’t criticize the abuser. A victim often has conflicting feelings about the abusive partner. If you're critical of the abuser, the victim may become defensive or may shut down. Instead, you can talk about behaviors that are negative by saying something like, "I'm really concerned about how your partner treats you. Nobody has the right to put someone else down."
  • Find out about the resources that are available.
  • Learn as much as you can about dating abuse.
  • Encourage your friend to make a safety plan if they have decided to leave the relationship. Your part in a safety plan can include walking home together, checking in at certain times of the day, and having a code word your friend can use if they need immediate help.
  • Encourage your friend to make a safety plan if s/he chooses to stay.  This includes: safe places to go if violence escalates, numbers to call, safe words that alert a friend that the victim/survivor needs help and to call 911.  
  • Do not confront the abuser. This can result in an escalation of violence against the victim.
  • Do not slip a hotline card or any other information about abuse into someone's bag or under a door. This can also escalate the violence against the victim.
  • Do not send a voicemail message or an email message about the abuse to your friend. You do not know if the abuser is monitoring the phone or the computer.
  • Be careful for yourself. Let your friend know what you are comfortable doing and what your boundaries are. You can also get support for yourself from the resources below.

Dating Violence Resources

On Campus

Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS)
Student Health Center

Same day drop-in appointment for EMERGENCY only. Individual, couple counseling. Behavioral health clinic. Call to schedule appointments.

UCSC Women's Center
Cardiff House, base of campus

The UCSC Women's Center offers campus programs and referral services focused on critical issues to women and male allies for student, staff, and faculty outreach and awareness of domestic violence.

Emily Crutcher, M.A.
Victim Advocacy Specialist at SHOP
(831) 459-1053

Title IX/Sexual Harassment Office
Kerr Hall, Room 119
The Title IX/Sexual Harassment Officer provides information, consultations, and complaint resolution in all areas of sex discrimination, including sexual assault and sexual harassment.

UCSC Police
831 459-2231
Emergency: 911
H Barn

Available 24-hours. Female and male officers with training in sexual assault and relationship violence issues.

 Off Campus

Women's Crisis Support/Defensa De Mujeres
24-hour Crisis Hotline: 831 658-3737

Santa Cruz Location
1537 Pacific Avenue, Suite 300
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831 425-7030

Watsonville Location
233 East Lake Avenue
Watsonville, CA 95076
(831) 722-4532

Crisis intervention, support, advocacy, and counseling for women experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault, or chemical dependency. Also, confidential shelter for battered women and their children, temporary restraining order assistance, and court accompaniment.

Walnut Avenue Women's Center
831 426-3062
Domestic Violence Resource Hotline: 1-866-2MY-ALLY
303 Walnut Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Open M-F 9-5

Resource center for women and their families; support services for battered women; low-cost childcare; food bank; clothing closet, breast cancer support; and various support groups and classes. UCSC interns welcome.

Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women
831 420-5363
323 Church Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

The Commission develops and implements educational programs, reviews police response to crimes of sexual assault and domestic violence, and contracts with local agencies to provide services which include prevention and education programs, and support services for survivors of violence. e-mail:

Family Service Association of Pajaro Valley
233 East Lake Ave.
Watsonville, CA 95076.

Specializes in preventative mental health for families, couples, children, and individuals of any age. Also provides domestic violence prevention groups, pre-marital sessions and play therapy for children.

Santa Cruz Community Counseling Center

Provides emergency shelter, mental health services, substance abuse counseling and domestic violence diversion.

National Resources

INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence
415-553-3837, P.O. Box 6861 Minneapolis, MN 55406

INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence is a national activist organization of radical feminists of color advancing a movement to end violence against women of color and their communities through direct action, critical dialogue and grassroots organizing. e-mail: in

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (7233) TTY: 1-800-787-3224
The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides anonymous crisis intervention, information about domestic violence and referrals to local services. The hotline advocates can answer calls in English and Spanish and have access to translators in 139 languages.

Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE
If you or someone you know needs help because of a sexual assault or an abusive relationship, call this hotline 24 hours a day. Counselor-advocates provide confidential support and are available to accompany victims of sexual assault to the hospital and police station. Ongoing counseling and support groups are available.

The Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project 1-800-832-1901
This grassroots, non-profit organization provides community education and direct services for clients. GMDVP offers shelter, guidance and resources to allow gay, bisexual and transgender men in crisis to leave violent situations and relationships.

The Network/La Red
617-423-SAFE (Hotline in English and Spanish)

This program offers free services in English and Spanish for lesbians, bisexual women and transgender people who are victims of battering. These services include a hotline, emergency shelter and advocacy programs.

Men Stopping Violence

MSV is a social change organization dedicated to ending men's violence against women. This program offers trainings and resources that examine sexist belief systems, social structures, and institutional practices that oppress women and children and dehumanize men themselves. On this site you can find articles on why men batter, information on how to work towards ending violence against women, and information on MSV training dates and resource materials.

US Department of Justice

The Department of Justice publishes numerous research studies on domestic violence and sexual assault. This site also provides resources for victims of different kinds of crime, information on stalking and cyber-stalking and resources for parents.