About the Issues

Arlington DVSV Services Banner April 2020

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Domestic, Dating and Intimate Partner Violence

Domestic, dating and intimate partner violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used by one individual intended to exert power and control over another individual in the context of an intimate relationship. (For specific, legal definitions visit: https://law.lis.virginia.gov) 

  • A Pattern: Domestic, dating and intimate partner violence involves more than one isolated incident of violence. It involves a connected pattern of abusive and/or violent behaviors and actions that usually increase in frequency and intensity overtime. Because domestic violence is so prevalent in our communities, overtime advocates have been able to identify commonalities in the patterns that people in abusive relationships often experience. We call these commonalities, The Cycle of Violence. The cycle can happen many times in an unhealthy, abusive and/or violent relationship and each stage lasts for a different amount of time. Emotional abuse is often present throughout the entirety of the cycle. Learn more about the cycle of violence.
  • Abusive Behaviors: Abusive, or coercive, behaviors may include but are not limited to, physical assaults, verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, use of weapons, isolation from friends, family and/or employment opportunities, destruction of property, violence towards significant people or pets, sexual assault/abuse, and control over economic resources (financial abuse). Learn more about emotional, physical, sexual and financial abuse.
  • Intent:  The pattern of behaviors is not a matter of coincide, the result of a time-limited crisis or the fault of the person begin abused. Let us say that again: No matter what happened prior to the assault, domestic violence is never the fault of the person being abused. Rather, domestic violence it is a learned behavior that is often motivated by the unconscious or conscious desire of the abusive person to control their partner. Research shows that men who are abusive often lash out at their partners or spouses with the intent of enforcing what they believe to be their rights, but that they are generally able to keep from reacting in an abusive manner when individuals, other than their partners or children, do not meet their expectations. This behavior is rooted in logic, demonstrating rationalization that allows us to understand that domestic violence is purposeful behavior. Anyone can use abusive behaviors. While men are disproportionally the perpetrators of domestic violence, women can also be abusive to their partners and need support. Learn more about why people may abuse. View the Power and Control Wheel.

Teen Dating Abuse/Violence

Just as adult relationships can be unhealthy and abusive, so can the dating relationships of teens. And to some degree, young people are more at risk since they are new to dating and learning what are and aren’t healthy dating behaviors. Dating relationships may last anywhere from a few days or weeks to a few months or years, with some ups and downs as well as intense emotional, romantic and sexual feelings and behaviors. 

As in adult relationships, dating violence in teen relationships is used by one partner to:  

  • Used by one partner to manipulate the other and gain power & control; and
  • Isolates young people and makes them feel bad about themselves and fear for their safety.

Abusive dating relationships often begin just like healthy, loving ones and that is why it is so imperative to be able to recognize and spot the “warning signs” of unhealthy and abusive relationships.  

  • An abusive partner may be caring, attentive and romantic in the relationship’s beginning but may become more controlling, possessive or jealous over time; 
  • Abusive behaviors might only occur in private so that friends and family members remain unaware of the abuse; and  
  • Once others become concerned, the person being abused may make excuses for the partner who is hurting them or feel at fault and take the blame for provoking the abuse.

To get helpful advice and learn about the warning signs of abuse so that you can spot them in your dating relationship or be prepared to help a loved one in an abusive dating relationship, you can visit loveisrespect.org, a site designed for young people in dating relationships. Here you can also talk, chat online or text with a helpline staff member.  

Sexual Assault and Harassment

Sexual assault is any act of a sexual nature committed against someone without that person’s freely given consent. (For specific, legal definitions visit: https://law.lis.virginia.gov  

  • Any act of a sexual nature: The behavior or act, regardless of intention, is defined by how the person being targeted and/or experiencing the behavior.  Sexual assault is ANY unwanted, coerced or forced sexual contact including but not limited to:
    • Fondling or unwanted sexual touching;  
    • Any sexual acts between adults and children or youth (sexual abuse). Children and teens cannot consent to sexual activity with adults; 
    • Forcing someone to watch pornographic or sexually explicit materials;  
    • Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body;  
    • Calling someone sexually degrading names;  
    • Sexual contact with someone who is very intoxicated or incapacitated;  
    • Attempted rape; and/or 
    • Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape.
  • Consent: Consent is when someone agrees, gives permission, or says “yes” to any physical and/or sexual activity with other persons. Consent must be freely given- meaning all people in a sexual situation must feel that they are able to say “yes” or “no” or stop the sexual activity at any point. Consent cannot be coerced (saying yes because they feel threatened), nor can an individual give consent if they are incapacitated or intoxicated. Learn more about consent.  
  • What is sexual coercion? Sexual Coercion is common in cases of sexual assault when the person being abusive and the person experiencing the abuse know each other (the most common forms of sexual assault). Sexual coercion is unwanted sexual activity that happens after being pressured in nonphysical ways that include, but are not limited to:   
    • Being worn down by someone who repeatedly asks for sex; 
    • Being lied to or being promised things that weren’t true to trick you into having sex; 
    • Having someone threaten to end a relationship or spread rumors about you if you don’t have sex with them; and  
    • Having an authority figure, like a boss, property manager, loan officer, or professor, use their influence or authority to pressure you into having sex.
    • In a healthy relationship, you never have to have sexual contact when you don’t want to. Sexual contact without freely given consent is assault. Sexual coercion means feeling forced to have sexual contact with someone. Learn more about sexual coercion.  
  • What is sexual harassment? Sexual harassment happens when someone in a workplace, home, or school makes unwelcome sexual advances to another or requests sexual favors. It includes verbal or physical behaviors that may affect one’s job, home, or education. These acts are sexual harassment when they are without one’s consent, are unwanted, and/or interfere with one’s work or school performance by creating a hostile or offensive environment.

Impacts to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, + (LGBTQIA+) Community

Those who identify with the LGBTQIA+ community are often at a heightened risk to experience dating, intimate partner and sexual violence. In its 2008 first-in-Virginia community assessment, the Virginia Anti-Violence Project (VAVP) found LGBTQ experiences of violence widespread throughout Virginia. Of the respondents who participated in the assessment: 

  • 41 percent had been in an abusive relationship 
  • 30 percent had been stalked 
  • 36 percent had experienced sexual violence as a youth (17 and younger) 
  • 26 percent had experienced sexual violence as an adult

In July 2013, the first Virginia telephone helpline was launched for LGBTQ Virginians to report and seek assistance with partner abuse and sexual violence. Call 866-356-998 or go to the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance for more details. 

Learn more about interpersonal violence in the LGBTQ+ community.