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Interpersonal Violence

Is this abuse?
Dating abuse is a pattern of destructive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner. While we define dating violence as a pattern, that doesn’t mean the first instance of abuse is not dating violence. It just recognizes that dating violence usually involves a series of abusive behaviors over a course of time.

Warning Signs of Abuse
Because relationships exist on a spectrum, it can be hard to tell when a behavior crosses the line from healthy to unhealthy or even abusive. Use these warning signs of abuse to see if your relationship is going in the wrong direction:

  • Checking your cell phone or e-mail without permission
  • Constantly putting you down
  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Explosive temper
  • Isolating you from family or friends
  • Making false accusations
  • Mood swings
  • Physically hurting you in any way
  • Possessiveness
  • Telling you what to do

Learn more about how unhealthy relationships work by exploring our power and control wheel at loveisrespect.org.

What is emotional abuse?
Emotional abuse includes non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring or “checking in,” excessive texting, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking.

There are many behaviors that qualify as emotional or verbal abuse:

  • Calling you names and putting you down.
  • Yelling and screaming at you.
  • Intentionally embarrassing you in public.
  • Preventing you from seeing or talking with friends and family.
  • Telling you what to do and wear.
  • Using online communities or cell phones to control, intimidate or humiliate you.
  • Blaming your actions for their abusive or unhealthy behavior.
  • Stalking you.
  • Threatening to commit suicide to keep you from breaking up with them.
  • Threatening to harm you, your pet or people you care about.
  • Making you feel guilty or immature when you don’t consent to sexual activity.
  • Threatening to expose your secrets such as your sexual orientation or immigration status.
  • Starting rumors about you.
  • Threatening to have your children taken away.

Is Emotional Abuse Really Abuse?
A relationship can be unhealthy or abusive even without physical violence. Verbal abuse may not cause physical damage, but it does cause emotional pain and scarring. It can also lead to physical violence if the relationship continues on the unhealthy path it’s on.

Sometimes verbal abuse is so bad that you actually start believing what your partner says. You begin to think you’re stupid, ugly or fat. You agree that nobody else would ever want to be in a relationship with you. Constantly being criticized and told you aren’t good enough causes you to lose confidence and lowers your self-esteem. As a result, you may start to blame yourself for your partner’s abusive behavior.

Remember -- emotional abuse is never your fault. In fact, your partner may just be trying to control or manipulate you into staying in the relationship. Talk to someone you trust, like a parent, friend or teacher, about the situation and make a safety plan. You can also chat with a peer advocate at loveisrespect.org for more help when dealing with verbal abuse.

What is physical abuse?
Physical abuse is any intentional and unwanted contact with you or something close to your body. Sometimes abusive behavior does not cause pain or even leave a bruise, but it’s still unhealthy.

Examples of physical abuse are:

  • Scratching, punching, biting, strangling or kicking.
  • Throwing something at you such as a phone, book, shoe or plate.
  • Pulling your hair.
  • Pushing or pulling you.
  • Grabbing your clothing.
  • Using a gun, knife, box cutter, bat, mace or other weapon.
  • Smacking your bottom.
  • Forcing you to have sex or perform a sexual act.
  • Grabbing your face to make you look at them.
  • Grabbing you to prevent you from leaving or to force you to go somewhere.

Escaping Physical Abuse
Start by learning that you are not alone. More than 1 in 10 high school students have already experienced some form of physical aggression from a dating partner, and many of these teens did not know what to do when it happened. If you are in a similar situation:

  • Realize this behavior is wrong.
  • Talk to an adult, friend or family member that you trust.
  • Create a safety plan.
  • Consider getting a restraining order.
  • Do not accept or make excuses for your partner’s abusive behavior.
  • Remember that physical abuse is never your fault.

Protecting Yourself from Physical Abuse
Unhealthy or abusive relationships usually get worse. It is important to know the warning signs to prevent more serious harm. If you are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, consider making a safety plan. Chat with a peer advocate at loveisrespect.org for more information.

What is financial abuse?
Financial abuse can be very subtle -- telling you what you can and cannot buy or requiring you to share control of your bank accounts. At no point does someone you are dating have the right to use your money without your permission or dictate how you spend it to control you.

Here are some examples of financially abusive behavior:

  • Giving you an allowance and closely watching what you buy.
  • Placing your paycheck in their account and denying you access to it.
  • Keeping you from seeing shared bank accounts or records.
  • Forbidding you to work or limiting the hours you do.
  • Preventing you from going to work by taking your car or keys.
  • Getting you fired by harassing you, your employer or coworkers on the job.
  • Hiding or stealing your student financial aid check or outside financial support.
  • Using your social security number to obtain credit without your permission.
  • Using your child’s social security number to claim an income tax refund without your permission.
  • Maxing out your credit cards without your permission.
  • Refusing to give you money, food, rent, medicine or clothing.
  • Causing visible bruises and scars so that you are too embarrassed to go to work or school.
  • Using funds from your children’s tuition or a joint savings account without your knowledge.
  • Spending money on themselves but, not allowing you to do the same.

I’m Experiencing Financial Abuse
If you partner does any of these things, you are probably in an unhealthy or abusive relationship. Financial abuse is usually coupled with emotional or physical abuse.

If you are not in control over your finances, or if your partner has removed money from your bank account, it can seem very scary to leave an abusive relationship. There are many organizations who can help you “get back on your feet” and get control over your finances -- some even provide short-term loans to cover important expenses as you escape an abusive relationship. Chat with a peer advocate at loveisrespect.org to learn more about local resources.

You may also want to talk to someone you trust, like a friend, family member or legal professional, about getting a protection order. Whether you decide to leave or stay, consider making a safety plan that includes setting aside funds in a secret location.

Information on this page used with the permission of loveisrespect.org.

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