Frequently Asked Questions

What is abuse?

Abuse is when harmful behaviors:

  • Are used to manipulate
  • Are used to gain control
  • Are used to gain power over someone
  • Make you feel bad about yourself or other people you’re close to
  • Make you afraid of your dating partner.

Abuse can be physical (such as slapping, pushing, or hitting), emotional (such as: behaving jealously, making someone feel guilty, or insulting someone), or sexual (such as: unwanted sexual contact, forced kissing, threats of unwanted sexual contact, or rape). There is also electronic abuse (such as: using social media to insult a partner, sending unwanted sexual images or messages, or constantly checking up on a dating partner).

Some harmful and abusive behaviors can be LGBTQ specific. For example, a person could belittle or deny their dating partner’s identity, intentionally use incorrect pronouns, or threaten to out a person who isn’t ready to be out.

Threats of any kind of abuse are also abuse. It may be helpful to look at Typical Harmful Behaviors and Dating Abuse Red Flags to see examples of other behaviors that could be abusive.

Why do people abuse?

There are many different reasons why someone might abuse another. Ultimately, though, people abuse to gain control or power over someone else. Three main reasons why people abuse are:

  • To control the way someone thinks.
  • To control the way someone feels.
  • To control the way someone acts.

Someone may also abuse others for a number of reasons, such as: they believe it’s the “normal” way to act; they feel like they need power over others; they’ve learned they can get what they want through abuse; they don’t know nonviolent ways of expressing anger, frustration, or conflict; they don’t communicate effectively; and many more.

What does abuse look like?

Abuse can look different in many different situations. The type of abuse, the severity of abuse, and who the abuser and survivor are can change in each case. There is no “standard” type of abuse. However, it is almost always the case that abuse reoccurs in a relationship – it does not go away on its own.

Is jealousy or being over-protective actually harmful? Doesn’t it just mean that they love me?

Being jealous or over-protective once might not be abusive, but when a partner is continuously jealous, that can be used to manipulate or control the other partner. Manipulating or controlling a dating partner is abusive. There are many ways to show that you love your dating partner, but always make sure that they are healthy.

How do you tell who the survivor is and who the abuser is?

You cannot tell who the survivor is and who the abuser is in a relationship just by looking at them. Although people may hold stereotypes of who a survivor is and who an abuser is, these are often not true. Survivors can be masculine, feminine, androgynous, men, women, or trans people. Abusers can be any of those as well. It is impossible to know who each person is in an abusive relationship without talking to each person individually.

How can I help?

If someone you know is in an abusive relationship, one of the best ways you can help is by being there to listen and support them. You can find a full list of ways to help the person by visiting the “How to Help a Friend” section.

Can same gender relationships be abusive?

LGBTQ relationships have the potential to be abusive just as straight relationships do. Either partner in any relationship could be the survivor or the abuser, regardless of their identity. Remember that someone’s identity does not indicate whether they are abusive or a survivor.

Why do survivors of abuse stay with or return to the abuser?

Relationships are very complex. People decide to stay for many different reasons – survivors sometimes think the good parts of the relationships will stay and the bad parts will go away, the abuse is their fault, that they can help the abuser if they stay, and many other reasons too. The survivor may still love the abuser. Likewise, people break up and get back together for many different reasons.

It’s important to remember that relationships are complex. Every person has different priorities, so it can be difficult to understand why a friend might stay in an abusive relationship. Remember that each person is the expert in their own life and makes their own decisions. Be there for your friend and remember to respect their decisions.

What can I do if I’m not ready to leave an abuser?

  • Create a safety plan

A safety plan is a plan to be safe during different situations. For example, there can be a safety plan for when someone is ready to leave an abusive relationship, when there is violence in the relationship, when someone has just left an abusive relationship, and many more. Having these plans already set up lets you be prepared in case any of those situations do come up. Visit our Resources page to see who in your area can help you create one.

  • Stay connected and reconnect with friends and family

Survivors of abuse are often isolated by their partner, so they often don’t have a very large support network. Reconnect with friends and family members to make that support network even larger. You may want to tell them about your situation and if you can, include them in your safety plans!

  • Take care of yourself

This can be a very stressful time, and it’s important to remember to take care of yourself in as many ways as possible. Self care is a large part of healing from abusive situations and can help make sure that you are healthy in mind, body, and spirit. Find what makes you happy, comfortable, and feeling safe, then try to stick to your plan of self case. It may be as simple as taking up hobbies or interests that you may not have done in a while. Visit our Resources page to see who you can connect with in your area to work on caring for yourself.

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