Dating Violence

Emotional Control and Dating Violence: Know the Signs

Dating violence often begins with a pattern of emotional control used to gain power over a romantic or intimate partner. It is characterized by ongoing abusive, aggressive, and controlling behavior and affects individuals regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Dating violence describes many behaviors including any form of physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual abuse.  While many partners do not abuse or attempt to emotionally control their partners, it’s important to know the signs.

Abusive and controlling partners often promise change, but this rarely happens and these issues typically don’t resolve on their own.

When should I be worried?

In relationships, everyone may experience mild feelings of jealousy, or want to check in with their dating partner from time to time. However, when jealousy, obsessive texting and calling, and the desire for constant vigilance dominate the relationship, it may be time for closer examination. These things occur in a pattern, and may build in frequency and intensity over time.   It is important to know that physical violence is never acceptable from another person, under any circumstances.

Know the facts

Twenty-one percent of college students have experienced dating violence at the hands of a current dating partner, while 32% report having experienced violence by a previous partner. Sexual violence can occur in the context of dating violence; 60% of acquaintance rapes on college campuses are perpetrated by a casual or dating partner.

Do you see these signs in your relationship?
Does your partner:
  • Act jealous or possessive? Put you down or criticize you?
  • Try to control where you go, what you do, or what you wear?
  • Blame you for the hurtful things they say or do?
  • Threaten to kill or hurt you if you leave them, or threaten to kill themselves?
  • Try to stop you from seeing or talking to friends and family?
  • Do they hit, slap, push or kick you?
  • Monitor your email or profile on social networking sites, or get upset at things that other people post to your sites?
  • Get in your face, or otherwise invade your personal space during a disagreement?
  • Coerce, manipulate, or force you into sexual acts that you are uncomfortable with or have refused?
  • Attempt to degrade or humiliate you in front of others?
  • Act in any way that makes you feel that you are being controlled, manipulated, or harmed?

Your gut can be your best defense – if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Is your friend in an abusive relationship?
Does their partner:
  • Call them names or put them down in front of others?
  • Act extremely jealous when they talk to the opposite sex (or same sex, depending on their orientation), even when it is innocent or platonic?
  • Always check up on them and demand to know who they have been with and where they have been?
  • Lose their temper frequently and maybe even hit and/or break things?
Does your friend:
  • Apologize for their partner frequently and make excuses for their behavior?
  • Cancel plans at the last minute often and for reasons that sound untrue?
  • Seem worried about upsetting their partner or making them angry?
  • Give up on things that used to be important to them, such as spending time with friends and family, and is becoming more isolated?
  • Appear to be losing weight, or seem to be having a dramatic change in grades or appearance (these could be signs of depression, which could indicate abuse)?
  • Have injuries that they can’t explain, or give an explanation for their injuries that doesn’t make sense?
Speak up!

If you recognize yourself or a friend in any of these scenarios, or you have a bad feeling about the dynamics of your relationship or intimate partnership, speak up and get the help you need.  Call our victim services desk at 803.777.6472 or call the 24-hour number at 803.777.4215.

Talk to Someone

Individual and group counseling are available to all USC students at Counseling Services. Crisis intervention and walk-in appointments are available, too. Call 777.5223 or visit the Close/Hipp Building, fifth floor, located at 1705 College Street.

  • For information about  Student Health Services’ Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention & Prevention (SAVIP), visit
Safety First.  Always.

If you ever feel that you are in danger or at risk of harming yourself or someone else, or you feel that you are in danger, call 911 immediately.

Power and Control

Physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse all originate from the abuser’s need to exert power and control over a current or previous intimate partner.  Power and control wheels provide an excellent visual tool to explain how these dynamics play out in tactics used by controlling and abusive partners.  The College Power and Control Wheel was adapted by the Haven Project at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

college power and control wheel











To view the full brochure developed for the University Community, click here.