Dating/Domestic violence is  controlling, abusive, and aggressive behavior in an intimate relationship . It occurs in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships and can include verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or a combination of these.  

It does not matter how long you have been in the relationship. Whether two weeks or two years, violence can and does still occur. 

Girls and women between the ages of 16 to 24 are most likely to be abused in a dating relationship. While one usually thinks of abuse as meaning physical abuse, those in violent dating relationships are actually more likely to experience verbal, emotional, or sexual abuse or a combination of these.

Your relationship may become violent if your partner or person you are dating does, or has done, any of the following:

  1. A push for a quick involvement: Comes on very strong. An abuser pressures a person for an exclusive commitment almost immediately.
  2. Jealousy: Excessively possessive; calls constantly or visits unexpectedly: prevents you from going to work because "you might meet someone;" checks the mileage on your car.
  3. Controlling: Interrogates you intensely (especially if you're late) about whom you talked to, and where you were; keeps all the money.
  4. Unrealistic expectations: Expects you to be the perfect person and meet his/her every need.
  5. Isolation: Tries to cut you off from family and friends; accuses people who are your supporters of "causing trouble."
  6. Blames others for problems and mistakes: The boss, it's always someone else's fault if anything goes wrong.
  7. Makes everyone else responsible for his/her feelings: The abuser says, "You make me angry instead of, "I am angry' or, "You're hurting me by not doing what I tell you."
  8. Hypersensitivity: Is easily insulted, claiming that his/her feelings are hurt when he/she is really mad.
  9. Cruelty to animals and to children: Kills or punishes animals brutally.
  10. "Playful" use of force during sex: Enjoys throwing you down or holding you down against your will during sex.
  11. Verbal abuse: Constantly criticizes you, or says blatantly cruel, hurtful things; degrades, curses, calls you ugly names.
  12. Sudden mood swings: Switches from sweetly loving to explosively violent in a matter of minutes or even more confusing, within seconds.
  13. Past battering: Admits hitting women/men in the past, but says they made him/her do it or the situation brought it on.
  14. Threats of violence: Makes statements like, "I'll break your neck," or "I'll kill you" and then dismisses them with, "Everybody talks that way," or "I didn't really mean it." If he/she has come this far, it is time to get help and get out!

(Adapted from Signs to Look for in a Battering Personality , from the Project for Victims of Family Violence. Fayetteville, Ark.)

There are a number of signs that can indicate a violent relationship. If the person you are with has done anything that made you feel scared or unsafe, the relationship may be, or have the potential to be, violent.

What to do if you are in a violent relationship

Arguing and disagreements are a normal part of any relationship but the use of violence, no matter how infrequent or slight, is not. Violence is not about losing control momentarily, it is about trying to gain power and control over a partner.  

Some people believe that when a person is violent, whether physically or emotionally, it is because they cannot control their anger. However, abusers often only display their abusive behaviors in private and/or direct it solely at their partner. This means that the abuser actually controls their anger quite well, as they are able to keep the abuse a secret, making the person being abused feel like no one would believe them if they told. 

Trust your instincts.  You can take action; help is available. If you feel scared or unsafe, there are a number of things you can do:

  • Take threats seriously.  Danger is often highest when the abuser talks about suicide or murder, or when the person being abused tries to leave or end the relationship.
  • Contact any of the on-or off-campus resources listed under Reporting Options to find support, information on possible legal options, help to develop a safety plan, or referrals to other services that might be helpful.
  • Tell any friends, family, faculty, and staff who you trust and who will be supportive. 

How to help someone experiencing violence

  • Listen. Show support. Don't blame them for what is happening to them. Tell them you are worried about them and ask how you can help. 
  • Encourage them to seek help, and help them obtain information about available resources both on-and off-campus. 
  • Don't tell the person what they should do, and be patient. Those in abusive situations are already being told what to do by their abusers and are not allowed to make decisions on their own. Support their decisions on what to do.
  • Avoid confronting the abuser. It could be dangerous not just for you but for the person being abused.
  • Find someone you can talk to. Helping someone who is being abused can be frustrating and hard to understand. Being able to talk to someone else about the situation will make you a better source of support. 

Reporting Options

For assistance, please view our Resources page.

Wisconsin Mandatory Arrest Law

An arrest shall be made if probable cause exists to believe that:

  1. A person has committed or is committing domestic abuse, and the person's actions constitute the commission of a crime, and either or both of the following circumstances are present:
    1. The officer has a reasonable basis for believing that continued domestic abuse against the alleged victim is likely.
    2. There is evidence of physical injury to the alleged victim.
  2. An officer's decision as to whether or not to arrest may  not  be based on the consent of the victim to any subsequent prosecution, or on the relationship of the persons involved in the incident.
  3. An officer's decision not to arrest may  not  be based solely upon the absence of visible indications of injury or impairment.
  4. If a report of a domestic abuse incident and the alleged act of abuse occurred more than 28 days prior to the date reported, the officer is not mandated to arrest the alleged perpetrator.