Abuse happens in college too

woman holding text books with backpack on

Did you know that dating violence is a big problem on college campuses? 43% of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors, including physical, sexual, technological, verbal, or controlling abuse. But it doesn’t just affect women. Dating violence happens in opposite-sex and same-sex relationships, and people of any gender can experience dating violence.

What does dating abuse look like?

It isn’t always obvious, dating abuse can show up in many ways. Because of that, it’s important to know how to spot red flags.

Emotional abuse

Putting you down, embarrassing you, making you think you’re crazy, mind games, name calling, guilt trips


Controlling what you do. Keeping you from talking to, visiting, and/or trusting other people in your life. Jealousy.

Minimizing, denying, blaming

Gaslighting, acting like the abuse was no big deal, didn’t happen at all, or it was your fault.

Economic abuse

Demanding that you pay more than your fair share, interfering with your ability to find and keep a job, keeping your money from you, criticizing how you spend your money.

Coercion and threats

Threatening to break up, commit suicide, or hurt you in order to get their way. Making you do illegal things.


Making you feel afraid with menacing looks, actions, or gestures. Smashing things, punching holes in walls, harming pets, showing weapons.

Aside from these behaviors, you may have a gut feeling that you’re being mistreated.

Ask yourself:

  • How do I feel when my partner calls me on the phone, texts me, or visits me? Happy? Unexcited? Scared?
  • What happens in my body when my partner is around? Do I feel normal? Do I start to sweat more than usual? Am I easily startled while they’re around?
  • If I have important news, good or bad, how does it feel to tell my partner? Are they supportive? Comforting? Irritable? Jealous?

The answers to these questions can tell you a lot.

What can you do if you’re experiencing dating violence?

Remember that there’s always a way out, even if you live together, have classes together, or have been together a long time.

Reach out for help

In college, there are a lot of places you can go for help. Your adviser, a campus counselor, someone from your res hall. They can listen and offer support. They’ll likely also be able to connect you with on-campus resources.

Make a safety plan

That way, you’ll be prepared for whatever action you decide to take. Stay busy with positive interactions and goals. Use your instincts. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, call the police. Keep emergency phone numbers in a convenient and safe location.

Start your healing journey

Whether you’ve left an abusive situation, or are currently dealing with one, you may want help processing your experience, learning to trust again, and figuring out how you should be treated in future relationships. Consider speaking with a therapist, or one of our helpful advocates who are here 24/7 to support you.

What if it’s happening to a friend?

If you worry your friend is in an abusive relationship, there are several things you can do to help:

  • Privately talk to your friend about your concerns, and tell them you’d like to help.
  • Listen to your friend without judging their decisions or feelings.
  • Remember that the decision to stay or go is up to them. Your being supportive is more help than you realize.
  • Tell your friend that the abuse isn’t their fault, and that they deserve a healthy, respectful relationship.
  • Stay focused on you friend and their safety, rather than the abusive partner. Don’t call out their abuser or confront them, or you’ll risk losing your friend’s trust, or put them in further danger.

Remember, it’s never too late to heal and build the life you deserve.