What Is Abuse?

We began our discussion this month with a dissection of Power. If ya’ll recall, we wrapped up that post with the following explanation of what Power has to do with unhealthy relationships.

“The benefits and disadvantages faced by certain groups can show up in relationships and help to reinforce the power differences between people. When we are aware of these systemic forces, we can best understand how to help others and ourselves to make sure abuse and violence are not perpetuated in our community or intimate relationships. We can also understand the complex situations people are in when they try to access services from organizations/institutions that believe in and reinforce those -isms we just spoke about.”

Today we will focus on a discussion of dating abuse. At PBJ, we define dating abuse as follows.

Dating abuse occurs when harmful behaviors are used to manipulate, gain control, gain power over, or make someone feel bad about them-self or other people close to them.

Here is a list of some harmful behaviors often found within unhealthy relationships. We have placed them within two categories: Physical Harm & Emotional Harm.

This is not a complete list of harmful behaviors. If you have any questions about possible harmful behaviors that you or a friend are experiencing, please call either the SPAN (303)444-2424 or MESA (303) 443-7300. Both lines are free, confidential, and anonymous.

[tabs tab1=”Physical” tab2=”Emotional”]

– hitting
– scratching
– pushing
– threatening
– pinching
– shoving
– forcing
– throwing things
– biting
– sexual assault
– sexual harassment
– damaging personal property


– name calling
– criticizing
– telling lies
– spreading rumors
– threatening to hurt oneself
– humiliating
– behaving jealously
– isolating partner from friends and/or family
– cheating on a dating partner
– making a dating partner feel guilty
– ignoring a dating partner’s feelings
– scaring a dating partner



Use this list of harmful behaviors to help you figure out if behaviors are abusive or not. Emotional, sexual, and physical dating abuse are all serious.

When emotionally harmful behaviors happen once, they may not be abusive. Emotional harmful behaviors become a problem when the behaviors continue and they’re used to manipulate, control, gain power over someone, or makes a person feel badly.

However, any use of physical or sexual violence is abusive, even if it’s only done once.

An abusive relationship is usually characterized by a pattern of behavior that includes more than just physical violence. It is a pattern of threatening and intimidating behavior used to gain control over a partner. It can include all of the harmful behaviors we just mentioned.

During our next blog post, we will discuss further as we introduce the Cycle of Violence.


Leave a Reply