Publish Date: 04-29-15

Section: Forum

Type: SoundOff

Byline: Savannah Nelson

Title: Managing Editor

Headline: Not all abusive relationships are physical

Kickhead: Signs of abuse are tangible and real

Word Count: 500

ESE Count: 0

Abusive relationships take various forms, including, but not limited to, the traditional trope of physical violence. There are alarming amounts of people—speaking up in class, posting on social online forums—who don’t understand that abusive relationships are not always physical, and scars do not always have to be visible to exist. The element of control, gaining and maintaining, is the reason behind abuse, and should not be taken lightly.

Domestic or spousal abuse occurs when a partner in an intimate relationship tries to control and dominate the other person. This can happen through manipulation, by means of fear, guilt, shame, intimidation, and threats. Domestic violence is the end of the spectrum where a person inflicts physical or sexual violence upon their partner. It’s not always noticeable or clear when abuse strikes, but it’s important to realize that it very much is a tangible issue.

Regardless of gender, age, ethnic backgrounds, and economic class, abuse exists in relationships. In a recent fiction workshop class on campus, there was a debate as to whether a female character in a short story was being abused emotionally, or whether she actually just deserved it. This character, let’s call her Molly, had been talking and spending time with people outside of her romantic relationship—texting friends, going to lunch with her father, meeting new people at parties. Molly’s partner, in response, had an insecurities and guilted her into ending contact with anyone else. There was a murmur among the class that perhaps, because she felt attracted to someone else, Molly deserved this kind of treatment from her boyfriend.

But here’s the truth, and nothing but it: Molly didn’t deserve any of the guilt and shame and control enforced upon her, even from a loved one.

And no one ever deserves it. Although women are more commonly victimized, all people deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe in all relationships, romantic or otherwise. It doesn’t matter if it’s Molly, Jessica, Mandy, or Joe. Boyfriend, girlfriend, friend with benefits—abuse is unhealthy in every vein, and can be recognized.

There are ways to identify signs of abuse in a relationship both by analyzing how you feel, plus how your partner acts. According to, a nonprofit guide to mental health and well-being, signs of abuse can be spotted when the following questions can be answered with a “yes”: do you feel afraid of your partner, avoid certain topics out of fear of provoking your partner, or feel as though you deserve to be mistreated or even hurt? Does your partner humiliate or yell at you, constantly criticize or belittle you, or treat you so badly that it’s embarrassing for friends and family to see?

If “yes” was answered to any of the previous questions, there is a way out. The Phoenix Center on campus is an available resource for anyone struggling with abuse, and in need of consultation. For an immediate response, there is a free 24/7 hotline available: 303-556-CALL (2255).