Dating and Domestic Violence

Everyone deserves to be treated with respect!

Everyone is entitled to have relationships free of coercion, physical and sexual violence, stalking, threats and intimidation, and other abusive conduct.

Healthy relationships, from Saturday night hookups to "long-term" relationships, are based on a foundation of respect. In healthy relationships:

  • Each partner feels safe.
  • There is open and honest communication.
  • Partners trust each other.
  • Boundaries are respected.
  • There is fair negotiation.
  • Partners encourage and allow each other to spend time with family and friends.
  • Partners are able to express themselves without fear.
  • Consent is a cornerstone.
  • There is equality.
  • Partners are considerate and support each other's well-being.
  • Each person is dependable and responsible.
  • Partners aren't required to check-in.
  • Conflicts are resolved in a fair manner without intimidation or the threat of violence.
  • Each partner values the other.
  • Partners respect each other's right to privacy.

Take a look at the National Domestic Violence Hotline's Relationship Spectrum to assess how a relationship measures up — healthy, unhealthy or abusive.



Whether the abuse is committed by an intimate partner (current or former), immediate family member, other relatives, or another individual, abusive relationships are based on inequality and the nonconsensual exercising of power and control over another person.

Abusers use a variety of tactics designed to establish fear and exert control. The warning signs or the specifics of what these tactics look like vary depending on the individuals involved. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, intimate partner violence can include sexual violence, physical violence, stalking, and psychological aggression.

Abuse can comprise non-criminal and criminal conduct. Non-criminal behaviors often lead to and occur simultaneously with criminal conduct. Like criminal dating and domestic violence, abusive activities that are not criminal acts are perpetrated to exert control, humiliate, and harm.

The Power and Control Wheel

The Power and Control Wheel was developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) of Duluth, MN to illustrate what female victims of domestic violence commonly experience. The Wheel describes strategies used by abusers to exert power and control over their victims. These tactics include coercion and threats; economic abuse; emotional abuse; intimidation; isolation; male privilege; minimizing, denying, and blaming; using children; and violence (physical and sexual).

Dating and domestic violence in LGBT relationships, abuse in immigrant populations, cultural and societal contexts, and other adaptions have also been developed by DAIP and other agencies. The original Wheel and subsequent adaptations are useful tools in identifying and understanding abusive relationships.

For information on the original Power and Control Wheel and adaptations, click on The Duluth Model.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline's Relationship Spectrum is a useful first step to help determine how a relationship measures up — healthy, unhealthy, or abusive.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline encourages everyone to watch out for red flags. If you're experiencing one or more in your relationship, consider calling the hotline at 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 (TTY) to talk about what's going on.

Does your partner?
Tell you that you can never do anything right
Embarrass or shame you with put-downs
Look at you or act in ways that scare you
Tell you that you are a bad parent or threaten to harm or take away your children
Intimidate you with guns, knives, or other weapons
Show jealousy of your friends and time spent away
Control every penny spent in the household
Control who you see, where you go, or what you do
Prevent you from working or attending school
Destroy your property or threaten to hurt or kill your pets
Pressure you to have sex when you don't want to or do things sexually you're not comfortable with
Keep you or discourage you from seeing friends or family members
Take your money or refuse to give you money for expenses
Prevent you from making your own decisions
Pressure you to use drugs or alcohol

Additional Examples of Abuse

The National Domestic Violence Hotline also identifies these forms of abuse.

Digital Abuse

Digital abuse is the use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate a partner. Often this behavior is a form of verbal or emotional abuse perpetrated online.

You may be experiencing digital abuse if your partner:
Tells you who you can or can’t be friends with on Facebook and other sites
Sends you negative, insulting, or even threatening emails, Facebook messages, tweets, DMs, or other messages online
Uses sites like Facebook, Twitter, foursquare, and others to keep constant tabs on you
Puts you down in their status updates
Sends you unwanted, explicit pictures and demands you send some in return
Pressures you to send explicit video
Steals or insists to be given your passwords
Constantly texts you and makes you feel like you can’t be separated from your phone for fear that you will be punished
Looks through your phone frequently, checks up on your pictures, texts, and outgoing calls
Tags you unkindly in pictures on Instagram, Tumblr, etc.
Emotional Abuse
You may be in an emotionally abusive relationship if your partner or family member exerts control through:
Calling you names, insulting you or continually criticizing you
Refusing to trust you and acting jealous or possessive
Trying to isolate you from family and friends
Monitoring where you go, who you call, and who you spend time with
Demanding to know where you are every minute
Punishing you by withholding affection
Threatening to hurt you, the children, your family, or your pets
Humiliating you in any way
Blaming you for the abuse
Serially cheating on you and then blaming you for his or her behavior
Cheating to prove that they are more desired, worthy, etc. than you are
Attempting to control your appearance; what you wear, how much/little makeup you wear, etc.
Telling you that you will never find anyone better, or that you are lucky to be with a person like them
Financial Abuse

Economic or financial abuse is when a partner extends their power and control into the area of finances.

This abuse can take different forms, including a partner:
Giving an allowance and closely watching how you spend it or demanding receipts for purchases
Placing your paycheck in their bank account and denying you access to it
Preventing you from viewing or having access to bank accounts
Forbidding you to work or limiting the hours that you can work
Maxing out credit cards in your name without permission or not paying the bills on credit cards, which could ruin your credit score
Stealing money from you or your family and friends
Using funds from children's savings accounts without your permission
Living in your home but refusing to work or contribute to the household
Making you give them your tax returns or confiscating joint tax returns
Refusing to give you money to pay for necessities/shared expenses like food, clothing, transportation, or medical care and medicine
Physical Abuse
You may be experiencing physical abuse if your partner has done or repeatedly does any of the following tactics of abuse:
Pulling your hair, punching, slapping, kicking, biting, or choking you
Forbidding you from eating or sleeping
Damaging your property they're angry (throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors, etc.)
Using weapons to threaten to hurt you, or actually hurting you with weapons
Trapping you in your home or keeps you from leaving
Preventing you from calling the police or seeking medical attention
Harming your children
Abandoning you in unfamiliar places
Driving recklessly or dangerously when you are in the car with them
Forcing you to use drugs or alcohol (especially if you've had a substance abuse problem in the past)
Reproductive Coercion

Reproductive coercion is a form of power and control where one partner strips the other of the ability to control their own reproductive system. It is sometimes difficult to identify this coercion because other forms of abuse are often occurring simultaneously.

Reproductive coercion can be exerted in many ways:
Refusing to use a condom or other type of birth control
Breaking or removing a condom during intercourse
Lying about their methods of birth control (for example, lying about having a vasectomy, lying about being on the pill)
Refusing to "pull out" if that is the agreed-upon method of birth control
Forcing you to not use any birth control (for example, the pill, condom, shot, ring, etc.)
Removing birth control methods (for example, rings, IUDs, contraceptive patches)
Sabotaging birth control methods (for example, poking holes in condoms, tampering with pills, or flushing them down the toilet)
Withholding finances needed to purchase birth control
Monitoring your menstrual cycles
Forcing pregnancy and not supporting your decision about when or if you want to have a child
Forcing you to get an abortion, or preventing you from getting one
Threatening you or acting violent if you don't comply with their wishes to either end or continue a pregnancy
Continually keeping you pregnant (getting you pregnant again shortly after you give birth)


Reproductive coercion can also come in the form of pressure, guilt, and shame from an abusive partner. Some examples are if your abusive partner is constantly talking about having children or making you feel guilty for not having or wanting children with them - especially if you already have kids with someone else.

Sexual Abuse and Coercion
Sexually abusive methods of retaining power and control include a partner:
Forcing you to dress in a sexual way
Insulting you in sexual ways or calling you sexual names
Forcing or manipulating you into having sex or performing sexual acts
Holding you down during sex
Demanding sex when you're sick, tired, or after hurting you
Hurting you with weapons or objects during sex
Involving other people in sexual activities with you against your will
Ignoring your feelings regarding sex
Forcing you to watch pornography
Purposefully trying to pass on a sexually transmitted disease to you


Sexual coercion lies on the 'continuum' of sexually aggressive behavior. It can vary from being egged on and persuaded, to being forced to have contact. It can be verbal and emotional, in the form of statements that make you feel pressure, guilt, or shame.

You can also be made to feel forced through more subtle actions. For example, a partner:
Making you feel like you owe them - For example, because you're in a relationship, because you've had sex before, because they spent money on you or bought you a gift
Giving you drugs and alcohol to "loosen up" your inhibitions
Playing on the fact that you're in a relationship, saying things such as: "Sex is the way to prove your love for me," and "If I don't get sex from you I'll get it somewhere else"
Reacting negatively with sadness, anger, or resentment if you say no or don't immediately agree to something
Continuing to pressure you after you say no
Making you feel threatened or afraid of what might happen if you say no
Trying to normalize their sexual expectations, for example, "I need it, I'm a man"


Even if your partner isn't forcing you to do sexual acts against your will, being made to feel obligated is coercion in itself. Dating someone, being in a relationship, or being married never means that you owe your partner intimacy of any kind.

Domestic Violence Defined

According to California Family Code §6211 and Penal Code §13700, domestic violence is abuse perpetrated against:

  • A spouse or former spouse.

  • A cohabitant or former cohabitant, as defined in §6209.

  • A person with whom the respondent has or has had a dating or engagement relationship.

  • A person with whom the respondent has had a child.

  • Others (e.g., child, close relative) depending on circumstances.

Abuse Defined

Abuse is defined by California Family Code §6203 and Penal Code §13700 as intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause:

  • Bodily injury.

  • Sexual assault.

  • Placing a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or to another.

  • Engaging in any behavior that has been or could be enjoined pursuant to California Family Code §6320.

  • Abuse is not limited to the actual infliction of physical injury or assault.

Disturbing the Peace and Coercive Control

Per California Family Code §6320, criminal abusive conduct also includes disturbing the peace and coercive control.

Disturbing the Peace

Disturbing the peace is defined as "conduct that... destroys the mental or emotional calm of the other party. This conduct may be committed directly or indirectly, including through the use of a third party, and by any method or through any means including, but not limited to:

  • Telephone
  • Online accounts
  • Text messages
  • Internet-connected devices
  • Or other electronic technologies..."
Coercive Control

Disturbing the peace also "...includes, but is not limited to, coercive control, which is a pattern of behavior that in purpose or effect unreasonably interferes with a person’s free will and personal liberty.

Examples of coercive control include, but are not limited to, unreasonably engaging in any of the following:

  • Isolating the other party from friends, relatives, or other sources of support.
  • Depriving the other party of basic necessities.
  • Controlling, regulating, or monitoring the other party’s movements, communications, daily behavior, finances, economic resources, or access to services.
  • Compelling the other party by force, threat of force, or intimidation, including threats based on actual or suspected immigration status, to engage in conduct from which the other party has a right to abstain or to abstain from conduct in which the other party has a right to engage.
  • Engaging in reproductive coercion, which consists of control over the reproductive autonomy of another through force, threat of force, or intimidation, and may include, but is not limited to, unreasonably pressuring the other party to become pregnant, deliberately interfering with contraception use or access to reproductive health information, or using coercive tactics to control, or attempt to control, pregnancy outcomes."

Abusive relationships are often associated with crimes (as defined by the California Penal Code) other than domestic violence, including:

Battery (§242)

  • Intentional and illegal use of force or violence against another person.

Child Abuse and Neglect (§11164-11174.3)

  • Willful abuse, harming, unlawful corporal punishment or injury, neglect, sexual assault, and sexual exploitation of a child (person under 18 years of age).

Child Witnessing Domestic Violence (§1170.76)

  • Committing or attempting sexual battery, an assault with a deadly weapon, or inflicting corporal injuries in the presence of a child or where a child has witnessed the crimes.

Corporal Injury (§273.5)

  • Intentional infliction of a corporal injury which results in a traumatic condition. A traumatic condition is a wound or injury (external or internal) caused by physical force. It includes, but is not limited to, minor and serious injuries caused by strangulation or suffocation (impeding normal breathing or blood flow by applying pressure on the throat or neck.

Criminal Threats (§422)

  • Threatening to commit a crime which will cause death or significant injury-even when there is no intention of carrying out the threat-that due to circumstances surrounding the threat the threat is so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific that the person threatened believes it will be carried out and results in sustained fear for their safety or the safety of their immediate family.

Stalking (§646.9)

  • Willful, malicious, and repeated following or harassment of another person that seriously alarms, annoys, torments, or terrorizes the person, and that serves no legitimate purpose; and making a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family.

Additional Crimes

  • Abusers may commit additional crimes, such as sexual assault, theft, robbery, trespassing, violation of protection/restraining orders, vandalism, and murder.

The CSU prohibits dating and domestic violence and stalking. Dating and domestic violence, and stalking are often based on gender. CSU prohibits all such misconduct whether or not it is based on gender.

Refer to the CSU Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Exploitation, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence, Stalking, and Retaliation.

Dating Violence

Dating violence means physical violence or threat of physical violence committed by a person:

  • Who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the Complainant; and
  • Where the existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on a consideration of the following factors:
    • The length of the relationship
    • The type of relationship
    • The frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence means physical violence or threat of physical violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the Complainant, by a person with whom the Complainant shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the Complainant as a spouse or intimate partner, or by a person similarly situated to a spouse of the Complainant.

Physical Violence

Physical violence means physical conduct that intentionally or recklessly threatens the health and safety of the recipient of the behavior, including assault.

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