Relationship Abuse


Relationship abuse can happen to anyone regardless of race, economic status, gender, sexual orientation, or where one lives. People stay in abusive relationships for many reasons including fear, belief that their abuser needs help and the abuser will change, and because they care about the person.

You have rights in a relationship. Relationships should be built on a foundation of respect and should include qualities like honesty, openness, trust, support, and understanding.

What is relationship abuse?

Relationship Abuse can be defined a pattern of behavior in any relationship (whether familial, romantic, intimate, friendship, etc.) that is used to gain or maintain power and control over another person. Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that may frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone.

You may be in an emotionally abusive relationship if your partner/family member/friend:

  • Calls you names, insults you or continually criticizes you;
  • Humiliates you in public;
  • Does not trust you and acts jealous or possessive;
  • Tries to isolate you from family or friends;
  • Constantly checks up on you, monitoring where you go, who you call and who you spend time with;
  • Blames you for problems in the relationship;
  • Does not want you to work;
  • Controls finances or refuses to share money;
  • Punishes you by withholding affection;
  • Threatens to disclose a secret, such as “outing” a same-sex partner or revealing anything that you want to keep private;
  • Threatens suicide if you assert independence or try to leave the relationship;
  • Threatens to hurt you, your family or your pets.

You may be in a physically abusive relationship if your partner/family member/friend has ever:

  • Damaged property when angry (thrown objects, punched walls, kicked doors, etc.);
  • Pushed, slapped, bitten, kicked or strangled you;
  • Abandoned you in a dangerous or unfamiliar place;
  • Scared you by driving recklessly;
  • Used a weapon to threaten or hurt you;
  • Forced you to leave your home;
  • Trapped you in your home or kept you from leaving;
  • Prevented you from calling the police or seeking medical attention;
  • Hurt or threatened to hurt someone you care about;
  • Used physical force in sexual situations.

You may be in a sexually abusive relationship if your partner/friend/etc. :

  • Believes in rigid gender role and views you as an object;
  • Accuses you of cheating or is often jealous of your outside relationships;
  • Wants you to dress in a sexual way;
  • Insults you in sexual ways or calls you sexual names;
  • Has ever forced or manipulated you into to having sex or performing sexual acts;
  • Held you down during sex;
  • Demanded sex when you were sick, tired or after beating you;
  • Hurt you with weapons or objects during sex;
  • Involved other people in sexual activities with you;
  • Ignored your feelings regarding sex.

What can I do if I am being abused?

No one deserves to be in an abusive relationship and the abuse is not your fault. Help is available.
  • If you are in immediate physical danger you can call 911;
  • If you have been injured you can go to the hospital or your doctors to get medical attention;
  • You can call the 24-hour confidential and free SHARPP Helpline at (603) 862-SAFE for support, information and resources. All services provided by SHARPP are non-judgmental and available to the UNH Community;
  • You can tell a supportive family member and friends what has happened. Friends and family may be able to offer support and resources;
  • You can attend a support group for survivors of relationship abuse;
  • You can create a safety plan for whether you are leaving or staying in the relationship;
  • You can take legal action; for example, applying for a protective order. A protective order is a court order telling your abuser to have no further contact with or your friends and family.

What can I do if someone I care about is in an abusive relationship?

Most survivors of relationship abuse disclose to at least one other person, usually a friend. Being there to listen, support and believe your friend is the best thing you can do. Remember, as much as you may want to, you can’t rescue your friend and you can’t solve her/his problems.

Helpful phrases you can use when talking to your friend:

  • I BELIEVE you. It’s NOT your FAULT;

  • How can I help you feel SAFE?;

  • Your reactions are NORMAL reactions to a horrible experience;

  • Help me UNDERSTAND how you feel;

  • You’re not alone; millions of people are in the same situation.

You can also call the 24-hour SHARPP Helpline at (603) 862-SAFE to seek confidential and free assistance. Learn more about helping a friend...

Campus Resources

Follow this link for further resources offered on campus.

Information on Relationship Abuse/Dating Violence

Multimedia and Interactive

Know that what is happening to you is never your fault.

You do not have to deal with this on your own.

There are people who can help.


*Rennison, C.M., & Welchans, S. United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2000). Intimate partner violence (NCJ Publication No. 178247). Rockville, MD.

Information on this page was adapted from the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Planned Parenthood.