Understanding Relationship Violence: Definition, Effects & Strategies

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  • 0:01 Relationship Violence
  • 1:21 Cycles of Violence
  • 2:27 Effects
  • 3:42 Dealing with…
  • 4:56 Alternative Solutions
  • 6:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In the United States, relationship violence remains a far-too prevalent aspect of society. In this lesson, we will discuss the patterns of violence, as well as effects and strategies for dealing with it. Then, test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Relationship Violence

We like to think of relationships in fairy-tale, Hollywood-style terms of happily ever afters. Unfortunately, that's not the experience that many people have. Relationships can become abusive in many ways, from emotional to physical, and all are damaging. Now, when we think about relationship violence, violence that occurs between people within an intimate relationship, we sometimes think this doesn't happen here; it doesn't happen anymore - that the United States is so far beyond that. But it isn't true. In the USA, one in three women will be the victims of relationship violence in their lifetimes, most of them between the ages of 18 and 24. While women are at higher risk of relationship violence, it's not like men are incapable of being victims, and one in four men will also be victims of relationship violence. These are real statistics from the United States we live in today. This is a real problem, and so understanding what victims are going through and how to communicate about it is important. We obviously hope you never have to use anything you learn here, but as with anything else, education is the first line of defense.

Cycles of Violence

So, let's talk a bit about relationship violence. What does it look like? Where does it come from? Violence between intimate partners is often best understood in terms of cycles. Within an abusive relationship, patterns of violence tend to follow certain stages. We start with tension, the moment when tensions mount within a relationship due to one partner's need to control the other. After enough tension builds, there is an explosion, when violence is used to restore or maintain control. After that comes the contrition stage, where the abuser becomes remorseful, doting, and loving, until tension builds back up, and the cycle repeats. Studies have shown, without exception, that unless consciously broken, this cycle will only continue to escalate. It's also important to note that these cycles can be passed on from parent to child, either through direct violence or just by watching violence in the household. In fact, the majority of abusers were once victims of abuse themselves.

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