Counseling and Resource Center

When Someone You Know...

...is in an Abusive Relationship

Domestic Violence and Abusive Relationships

When someone you know is being hurt by his or her partner or other loved one, this is called domestic abuse. The partners do not have to live together or be married. They can be young or old, gay, straight or bisexual, wealthy or poor.

Abuse is not just two people who disagree and argue. It is a pattern of violence based on power and control that gets worse if it is not interrupted.

Does Your Partner…?

These are questions that the person you know should ask her or himself about the relationship with the partner:

Does your partner prevent you from seeing people you want to, including friends or family?

Does your partner treat you like a servant?

Does your partner put you down, harass you or “scold” you, either in public or in private?

Does your partner force you to have sex against your will?

Does your partner hit you?

Does your partner throw objects or break things when angry?

Does your partner threaten to report you to immigration if you are an immigrant or refugee?

Does your partner (if you are gay or lesbian) threaten to “out” you at work or to people important to you?

Does your partner control your access to money?

Does your partner threaten to take your children away, or to harm them, or to harm beloved pets?

These are all signs of living in an abusive relationship. This includes physical, emotional, verbal, psychological or sexual abuse. The violence will not go away, and there is nothing you can do that can change your partner’s behavior. Remember, domestic violence is a pattern of power and control that will get worse over time.

If some of the answers to the questions above lead you to think that you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, but you are not quite sure, look at the Cycle of Violence. This cycle is present in abusive relationships and includes several phases:

Tension Building: This is the time where you can “hear a pin drop”, and you might feel as if you are “walking on eggshells”. The partner of the person who is abusive might be living in fear of upsetting the abusive partner, and worry constantly about what the abuser might do when he/she becomes upset.

Explosion: This stage is characterized by anything from abusive verbal outbursts to physical attacks.

Remorse and “Honeymoon” Phase: Apologies, promises to change, a reprieve from insults and physical violence are hallmarks of the honeymoon stage. The stage is temporary, and the relationship soon goes back to the tension-building phase again.

Without intervention, the cycle will continue with an unrelenting increase in the level of violence. If uninterrupted, a possible final outcome of this cycle is death.

Why Do Partners Stay?

  1. Often, an abused partner or family member stays in a violent situation because it is not safe to leave. Up to 75% of domestic violence assaults occur after a separation.
  2. Frequently, the partner is economically dependent on the abusive family member.
  3. The partner may lack confidence in her/his ability to make it on his/her own.
  4. Sometimes, an abused partner believes she/he deserves the treatment she/he receives.
  5. Abusive upbringing can condition people to believe that somehow violence is part of “love.”
  6. Rigid sex roles, where a woman believes she must “stand by her man” no matter what, and the man believes that women are inferior and responsible for her man’s comfort and pleasure, as well as his unhappiness

Right to Safety and Helping

If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, take some time to talk with the person. Remember, you could possibly help to save that person’s life or the life of her or his child. Here are guidelines for discussing the subject:


Show her/him that you are not placing blame; that you know that s/he is not causing the violence

Take time to listen, knowing that talking about the situation can be difficult

Offer to share information, like this brochure

Participate however you can, from just listening to offering short-term housing if your friend chooses to leave the situation

Ask the person what the experience has been like. He/she knows the situation and may need to talk about it with a trusted friend.

Be patient. Many feelings; shame, relief, fear, can surface when your friend first talks about the situation.

Understand that leaving the situation can be scary and can actually put your friend at an increased risk of violence

Show your support however you can. Help put a safety plan together.

Educate your friend about the legal protections that are available and go along as a support person while your friend applies for legal protection to help STOP the ABUSE.


Protection Orders (SNO County): 425.388.3638
Snohomish County Center for Battered Women: 425.252.2873 or 425.25.ABUSE
National Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE
Washington State Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.562.6025
New Beginnings (Seattle) 206.522.9472
Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Service 206.236.3134 (TTY)
Asian Pacific Islander Women and Family Safety Center 206.467.9976
CHAYA Support Services for South Asian Community 206.325.0325
Jewish Family Services DV Program 206.461.3240 X250
Korean Counseling Center DV Program 206.784.5691
Refugee Women’s Alliance 206.721.0243
NW Network of BI/Trans/Lesbian Survivors of Abuse 206.568.7777

Learn More:
National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence