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What is Relationship Violence?



UT Police (865-974-3114)

Dean of Students Office (865-974-3179)

UT Counseling Center (865-974-2196)


Family Justice Center 24/7 hotline: 865-521-6336


Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically; however, the one constant component of domestic violence is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other. (NCADV)

Under the University of Tennessee Policy on Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence, Stalking, and Retaliation, “Relationship violence” encompasses both domestic and dating violence.

Relationship violence does not discriminate and can happen regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Relationship violence can be physical, emotional/verbal, sexual, or even economic.

If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, or if you know a student who is struggling in one of these relationships, please reach out for help and support. You do not have to carry this fear, blame, hurt, guilt, isolation, or anxiety alone.

Physical Abuse: The use of physical force against another person

  • Hitting
  • Slapping
  • Shoving
  • Grabbing
  • Pinching
  • Biting
  • Hair pulling
  • Strangling
  • Denial of medical care

Sexual Abuse: A form of physical abuse in which a person is forced or coerced into unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual behavior without that person’s consent

  • Forced sexual intercourse (rape)
  • Attacks on sexual parts of the body
  • Unwanted touching or kissing
  • Forcing sex after physical violence has occurred
  • Treating one in a sexually demeaning manner

Emotional/Verbal or Psychological Abuse: When a person’s sense of self, self-esteem and self-worth are attacked and weakened, causing that person to feel trapped and as though they have nothing outside of the relationship

  • Constant criticism
  • Name-calling
  • Yelling
  • Blaming and shaming
  • Isolation from friends, family, school, work
  • Intimidation
  • Belittling
  • Threatening physical harm to self or others, such as children, family, or friends
  • Hurting of pets
  • Damaging property

Economic Abuse: When a person’s money is controlled by the other person and he/she becomes financially dependent on them as a result

  • Control of access to money
  • Withholding money
  • Having to account for any money spent
  • Withholding basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter)
  • Forbidding work or school

Does your partner ever:

  • Put you down, call you names, or make you feel bad about yourself?
  • Make you do something humiliating or degrading, or embarrass you in front of others?
  • Control what you do, who you see or talk to, or where you go?
  • Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
  • Take your money, make you ask for money, or refuse to give you money?
  • Intentionally damage your possessions or threaten to do so?
  • Tell you that you are a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
  • Prevent you from working or attending school?
  • Act like the abuse is no big deal, it is your fault, or even deny doing it?
  • Make all the big decisions and/or control the money?
  • Intimidate you with guns, knives, or other weapons?
  • Shove you, slap you, choke you, or hit you?
  • Force you to try and drop charges you have filed?
  • Threaten to commit suicide?
  • Threaten to kill you?
  • Use drugs and alcohol as an excuse for saying hurtful things or abusing you?
  • Pressure you sexually for things you are uncomfortable doing?
  • Tell you that you are nothing without them?

Do you:

  • Ever feel like you are walking on eggshells?
  • Sometimes feel scared of how your partner will act?
  • Constantly make excuses to other people for your partner’s behavior?
  • Believe that you can help your partner change if only you change yourself?
  • Try not to do anything that would cause conflict or make your partner angry?
  • Always do what your partner wants you to do instead of doing what you want?
  • Stay because you are afraid of what your partner would do to you if you broke up?


Domestic Assault (T.C.A. § 39-13-111)

  1. As used in this section, “domestic abuse victim” means any person who falls within the following categories:
    • Adults or minors who are current or former spouses;
    • Adults or minors who live together or who have lived together;
    • Adults or minors who are dating, or who have dated, or who have, or had, a sexual relationship, but does not include fraternization between two (2) individuals in a business or social context;
    • Adults or minors related by blood or adoption;
    • Adults or minors who are related or were formerly related by marriage; or
    • Adult or minor children of a person in a relationship that is described in subdivisions (a) (1)-(5).
  2. A person commits domestic assault who commits an assault as defined in § 39-13-101 against a domestic abuse victim.

Assault (T.C.A. § 39-13-101)

  1. A person commits assault who:
    • Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another;
    • Intentionally or knowingly causes another to reasonably fear imminent bodily injury; or
    • Intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another and a reasonable person would regard the contact as extremely offensive or provocative.
  2. Assault is a Class A misdemeanor unless the offense is committed under subdivision (a)(3), in which event assault is a Class B misdemeanor; provided, that, if the offense is committed against a law enforcement officer or a health care provider acting in the discharge of the provider’s duty

For more information about Tennessee Laws through Tennessee Code Annotated please visit:

¹ Information adapted from US Department of Justice, National Center for Victims of Crime,, and

² Information adapted from Family Justice Center Website:

This project was supported by Grant No. 2015-WA-AX-0024 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.