Northeastern University defines domestic violence as the intentional infliction of physical, sexual, or psychological harm on a current or former partner or spouse. Domestic violence includes dating, intimate partner, and relationship violence.

Healthy relationships are about trust and communication while abusive relationships are focused on power and control. While often people think of abuse as something that happens physically, it can actually take a variety of forms.

Forms of abuse                            Examples of what this type of abuse may look like

Physical Abuse
  • Unwanted bodily contact
  • Scratching, pinching, punching, pulling hair, spitting, slapping, kicking, physical restraint
Emotional Abuse
  • Saying or doing something that causes fear or low self-esteem
  • Spreading negative rumors
  • Putting someone down, undermining their thoughts and ideas
  • Threatening to harm oneself in an effort to control partner
  • Threatening to expose personal information
Financial Abuse
  • Using money to hold power over partner
  • Forbidding someone to work or limiting their work hours
  • Withholding financial support
  • Hiding or stealing money
Sexual Abuse
  • Any unwanted or non-consensual sexual behavior
  • Forbidding someone to use birth control or protection
  • Sending unwanted sexual images
  • Coercing someone to take nude photos
Cultural Abuse
  • Using something about a person’s identity or culture to exert power or control
  • Reinforcing cultural beliefs that play to one person gaining power over another, such as “Man up” or “Women should…”
Digital Abuse
  • Keeping constant tabs on partner via technology
  • Deciding who partner can and can’t talk to online
  • Controlling passwords, posing as partner
  • Putting partner down over social media
  • Incessantly contacting partner, becoming angry if there isn’t an immediate response

If you are noticing any of these warning signs in your relationship or in someone else’s, know that there are many resources available to you. You can email [email protected] to make an appointment at the Sexual Violence Resource Center or visit our resources page. You may also want to consider making a safety plan.


Domestic Violence is widespread. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “About 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime.”

Infographic on Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Violence, & Stalking (Center for Disease Control) 

For more statistics on domestic violence, check out:

There are many factors that may affect someone’s ability to leave a relationship that’s abusive. One key factor is that people often feel afraid for their own safety.  For more information, check out:

To hear Leslie Morgan Steiner describe why she stayed, watch her Ted Talk here or read Sarah Buel’s “Fifty Obstacles to Leaving aka Why Victims Stay” which reflects her own experience and experiences of those she’s worked with in 20+ years in the field of Domestic Violence.

If you are worried about a friend’s relationship and don’t know what to do, we encourage you to seek confidential support through OPEN’s Community Consultation services. OPEN staff can help you create a plan for supporting your friend. To request services, fill out this confidential service request form.

Tips on what to do if your friend is in an abusive relationship or is perpetrating one

Video example of how to support your friend

If you are worried for your friend’s immediate safety, call NUPD’s emergency line at 617-373-8354 (if you are on campus) or 911 (off campus).