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Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)

Cycle of Violence

Also known as Relationship Violence, Dating Violence or Domestic Violence.

Among college students, studies show that nine out of ten sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone known to the victim in some capacity—friend, a date, an acquaintance, a classmate, a family member, a caretaker, a coworker, or an intimate partner.1

Statistics have shown that a significant number of those who experience a sexual assault are sexually assaulted by an intimate partner. One study shows that of people who reported sexual violence, 64% of women and 16% of men were raped, physically assaulted, or stalked by an intimate partner. This includes a current or former spouse, cohabitating partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, or date.1

Recognizing Sexual Violence with an Intimate Partner

In intimate relationships, sexual violence can become one of the many abusive tactics a person will use to maintain power and control over a partner. Often, it is difficult for a person who has experienced sexual assault in these situations to recognize his or her experience as sexual assault. Indeed, sexual assault or sexual coercion can often be only a part of a larger pattern of other forms of abuse that are taking place in the relationship. A person who experiences sexual assault or coercion in their relationship can also be experiencing emotional, verbal, psychological or physical abuse as well.

Sexual assault or coercion within an intimate relationship can take many forms. A few examples:

  • Demeaning comments about a person’s sexuality or sexual performance.
  • Pressure to engage in sexual activity.
  • Pressure to engage in sexual acts with which a person is uncomfortable.
  • Threats (ex. I might have to get sex somewhere else if I don’t get it from you).
  • Guilt trips (ex. I am so attracted to you that I can’t help myself, I need sex to relieve stress, etc).
  • Attacking sexual areas of the body.
  • Performing sexual acts without the other partner's consent.

Often, because of the control and power that one person has over another person in an unhealthy relationship, it may be harder for someone experiencing intimate partner sexual assault to come forward and seek help. This person could be caught in a cycle of violence and abuse that often happens in abusive relationships. He or she may feel isolated, embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, afraid of the partner, afraid to leave, and/or depressed.

It is important that individuals experiencing intimate partner violence receive the same compassion and care as other survivors of sexual assault. In fact, maintaining safety and seeking help could be more complicated for victims of intimate partner sexual assault. For more information on unhealthy or abusive relationships, please contact the Sexual Assault Awareness Program (SAAP) Coordinator to learn what you can do to help a friend who might be experiencing abuse in a relationship.

Cycle of Violence

In an abusive relationship the partner being abused tends to fall into something known as the Cycle of Violence. This cycle includes three phases, a tension building phase, an abusive phase, and the apology phase, commonly known as the 'Honeymoon' phase. Once in this cycle, it occurs over and over again with the partner being abused stays in the relationship after the abuse because the abuser apologizes, makes amends and promises never to do the abusive behavior again. The partner being abused is either in denial that the abuse is taking place or has eternal hope that they can change the abuser, that things will get better or that the abuser is really sorry this time and will never do it again. Before long, the tension begins to build and once again the abuse take place. Over time the cycle starts to spin faster and faster and each time the abuse escalates. 

Warning Signs of an Abusive Partner

Are you dating or hooking up with someone who...

  • is jealous or possessive toward you?
  • won't let you have friends?
  • checks up on you? They may call/text you multiple times, show up to where you are, regularly ask and question about your whereabouts.
  • won't accept breaking up?
  • tries to control you by being bossy or manipulative?
  • gives you orders or makes all the decisions?
  • doesn't take you seriously?
  • scares you?
  • has unpredictable mood swings?
  • calls you offensive names?
  • is verbally abusive?
  • you worry about how s/he will react to things you say or do?
  • threatens you?
  • uses or owns weapons?
  • controls your money?
  • is cruel or abusive to animals or children?
  • is violent or has a history of getting into fights?
  • forces you into sexual activity?
  • belittles you behind closed doors or in front of others?
  • makes you feel obligated to perform sexual acts?
  • tampers with your method of birth control?
  • loses his/her temper easily?
  • isolates you from you friends and/or family? They may say they just want to spend more time with you, make you feel bad if you want to spend time with your friends/family, or show strong feelings against your friends/family and try to pit you against them.
  • brags about mistreating others?
  • has abused a past partner?
  • pressures you for sex?
  • is forceful or makes you feel pressured or uncomfortable around sex?
  • thinks of you as a sex object?
  • tries to guilt trip you by saying "if you really loved me you would..." or "my last boy/girlfriend would do..."?
  • gets really serious about the relationship too fast?
  • abuses drugs or alcohol?
  • pressures you to use drugs or alcohol?
  • blames you for them mistreating you? They might say that you provoked him/her, pushed his/her buttons, made him/her do it or led him/her on?
  • has a history of bad relationships?
  • blames other people for their problems?
  • believes that in a relationship one person should be in control and have all the power and the other person should be submissive?
  • your friends or family have warned you about?
  • your friends or family have told you they are worried about your safety, while dating/hooking up with this person?

If you answered 'yes' to any of the above statements you may be in an abusive relationship and should really consider getting help! Call or blitz a SAAP Coordinator, SAPA, or call WISE's Crisis Hotline for help (1-866-348-9473).



  • 1 Fisher, S., Cullen, F., Turner, M., 2000. The Sexual Victimization of College Women. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice.

Last Updated: 6/17/12