How do I help my friend get out of an abusive relationship?

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Q: My friend has stopped going out because she says her boyfriend won’t let her; he thinks she’ll cheat on him if she hangs out without him.  I barely see her anymore and I’m worried that he’s crossed the line in their relationship. What can I do? 

A: It can be difficult to assess whether abuse is occurring in a relationship, including your own!  Abusive behavior is often hard to recognize and many people may actually believe that it is part of a normal relationship. The first step in knowing if your friend is in trouble is to learn what abuse looks like.

Physical and sexual abuse can be described as any unwanted physical contact.  It might be hard to identify in a friend because victims often hide the physical evidence (bruises, scrapes or cuts) and feel that they are to blame in some way.

Emotional abuse is harder to define.  It can range from verbal insults and threats, to online bullying by text, email or social network stalking.

Abuse is always about power and control, and research has shown that it is much more likely to escalate rather than resolve.  Facts about dating violence:

  • 1 in 4 women will experience abuse at some point in their lifetime.
  • 80% of women stay in abusive relationships.
  • On average, it takes women 7 attempts to leave an abusive relationship. This is explained by a concept called the cycle of abuse.
  • Women ages 16-24 have the highest risk for becoming victims of dating abuse.
  • 32% of college students report being abused by a past partner and 20% report being abused by a current partner.
  • 60% of acquaintance rapes on college campuses occur in casual or steady dating relationships.

Dating abuse is much too complex to contain in a single blog post.  Please see the links below for more information, including links to local resources.  If you are concerned about your partner finding out that you’re looking for help, please use a public computer to access the links below!

The Safe Space    The Red Flag Campaign    Break The Cycle


It’s Abuse   

The Ohio State Student Wellness Center   

Ohio Domestic Violence Network

Cheryl Czapla, Med IV
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University

Emily Vargas, GAA
Student Wellness Center
The Ohio State University

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University