Stop Abuse @ Virginia Tech


Relationship Violence

While in college and throughout our lives, we are all engaged in various relationships, both platonically and intimately. While relationships can be a source of support, fun, and happiness, not all relationships provide these benefits. Some people are involved in unhealthy relationships, which can also sometimes become abusive. We encourage you to review the information on this page to see where your relationships fall. If you want to talk to someone about your relationship, or if you are concerned about a friend's relationship, call the Women's Center at Virginia Tech at 54/.231-7806.

What is relationship violence?

Types of abuse

This following list includes types of abuse that may be present in abusive relationships. These behaviors may be present at different points during the relationship, to varying degrees, or not at all.

Cycle of abuse in relationships

Abuse in relationships can follow a cyclical pattern. There are times when abusive behavior happens only once, but unfortunately this is not the case in most abusive relationships. Violent behavior typically repeats throughout the cycle. Keep in mind that not all of the victim/abuser behaviors listed below always occur, they are just some examples of commonly reported reactions.

Stage 1: Tension building: The abuser may become edgy and start to react more negatively to frustrations. The tension may rise to a point where the abuser feels that he/she has lost control over the behavior/actions of the victim.

Stage 2: Acute explosion: This is often the shortest of the stages because violence most always occurs at this point. The abuser may outwardly express more intense anger. Some victims become more emotionally detached because becoming emotional with the abuser could be more likely to trigger violence. It typically ends after a violent outburst by the abuser.

Stage 3: Honeymoon: This is typically a welcomed stage by both the abuser and the victim. The abuser usually expresses remorse for his/her actions and the victim starts to believe that the abuser can change and stop being abusive. This stage often continues until the abuser begins to feel confident again and starts to feel a loss of control over the victim's behavior. This stage has shown to decrease in length over time and has been shown to in some cases, disappear totally.

*This information is adapted from Walker, L. (1980) The Battered Woman and a brochure titled "Dating Violence" from Sexual Assault Services and Crime Victim Assistance, Rutgers University.

Characteristics of abusive vs. healthy relationships


Power and Control Wheel

Abusive relationships are based on power and control while
healthy relationships are based on respect.

(Adapted from "Is your relationship heading into dangerous territory?" brochure from the University of Texas at Austin (2001). (


Say something when you see relationship red flags

Virginia Tech is a participant in The Red Flag Campaign, a statewide awareness campaign designed to encourage us all to speak up when we see red flags (or warning signs for potential abusive or unhealthy behaviors) in our friends' relationships.

While it’s true that relationship violence is a complex problem that cannot be solved by a poster campaign, the message of the campaign is that there are countless steps we can take in our daily lives to stop someone who is being abusive, or to help someone who is being victimized.

Think about it. What is your responsibility as a friend? Is it to protect the “privacy” of your friend who is possibly being abused? Is it to defend another friend’s behavior, even though it could be abusive or violent?

Yes, sometimes we may feel pressure not to air a friend’s business or to minimize what’s going on. But please consider that relationship violence is not a “personal issue” and it is not something to be kept private. Relationship violence is a community issue…and sometimes a criminal one.

Research indicates that in 21% of college dating relationships, one of the partners is being abused. That’s 1 in 5 relationships.

So, if you want to know how to help a friend when it comes to relationship violence, here are some ideas. When it comes to relationship violence, here’s what it means to be a friend:

Pay attention to red flags, and trust your instincts. If you see something in your friend’s relationship that makes you feel uneasy, something you can’t quite put your finger on…say something. Tell you friend what you’ve noticed and ask if there’s anything you can do to help.

It shouldn’t take your friend physically harming his or her intimate partner and or self before you say something.

It shouldn’t take your friend having to come to you for help before you say something.

Your responsibility as a friend and our responsibility as a community is to ensure that students are able to reach their potential, and that patterns of healthy intimate relationships are able to take root. What we learn now about how to treat our girlfriends and boyfriends will shape our commitments in the future…to our partners, spouses, children, and families.

So if you see a red flag in your friend’s relationship, are you going to turn away? Or are you going to say something?

Find out more at


Grant statement: This project was supported by grant # 2005-WA-AX-0020 awarded by the Violence Against Women Office, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of View in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.



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Contact Information

Women's Center

206 Washington Street (0270)
Blacksburg, VA 24061
(540) 231-7806 (8am-5pm, M-F)

After hours, call the WRC 24-hour hotline at (540) 639-1123

Student Conduct

New Hall West Suite 141 (0428)
Blacksburg, VA 24061
(540) 231-3790 (8am-5pm, M-F)

VT Police Dept

Sterrett Facilities Complex (0523)
Blacksburg, VA 24061
(540) 231-6411 (24 hrs)

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