DA – Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions


How do you help your friend?
How often does this happen?
What about the cycle of abuse?
Can you change the abuser?
How far can abuse go?
Why do they do it?
Why doesn't he/she break up with him/her?

Is abuse more common in LGBTQ relationships?
Why do families fight?
When should I be worried about my safety?
What about sexting?

Have you guys ever been in one of those relationships?
Do you guys help everyone who calls you?


How do you help your friend?

“What is the best way to stop a person from going back into an abusive relationship?”

“What if a sibling is in an abusive relationship, but doesn't notice it? What do you do?”

“What do I do if I constantly try and talk to my friend about her boyfriend but she won’t listen?”

“Sometimes I feel like a friend of mine is in an abusive relationship but I don’t know much about them and I don’t know how to approach them because she really cares about him. What should I do?”

“Why don’t people try to stop & save other people from abuse?”

When helping a friend in an abusive relationship (or a potentially abusive relationship) the three most important things you can do are listen, believe, and support. If you notice red flags in your friends’ or families’ relationships, talk to them without being judgmental or accusatory; ask questions and don’t assume. Never give ultimatums (i.e., you need to break-up with her or I’m not going to be your friend anymore). Remember, people in abusive relationships are often isolated from their support systems. You might be the only person that is still there for them. Some people are afraid to get involved in other people’s relationships because they feel it is not their business to intrude, or are afraid for themselves if they do. But if you feel that you can do so safely, people in abusive relationships can always use a supportive friend.

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How often does this happen?

“What is the amount of abusive couples and violence in the US?”

“How many teenagers are in a healthy relationship?”

“About how many teens are in physical or unhealthy relationships?”

“How common is relationship violence?”

“How many teenagers are in abusive or unhealthy relationships?”

1 in 4 women in the US experience some form of domestic abuse. 1 in 3 teens who engage in dating relationships will experience dating abuse from a partner.

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What about the cycle of abuse?

“Does the abuse cycle happen in every relationship?”

“Does there have to be a cycle? What if the tension comes but not the abuse?”

“Why is it okay to argue once in a while in a relationship?”

“Does the abuse get worse each cycle?”

Abuse does not happen in every relationship. In a healthy relationship there is no presence of abusive behaviors and thus no cycle of abuse. This isn’t to say that a couple in a healthy relationship would never fight or have problems, but neither partner is trying to control the other person through abusive behaviors and there isn’t a reoccurring pattern of abusive behavior. Two people in a relationship are not always going to agree on absolutely everything. In a healthy relationship, a couple can have disagreements, but they do not physically or emotionally threaten one another or put each other down. In abusive relationships, typically abuse (regardless of the form) does get worse with time. The duration of the cycle also tends to shorten over time.

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Can you change the abuser?

“Can you change an abuser and save the relationship?”

“How would you stop someone’s obsession without getting out of the relationship?”

It’s important to remember that you can’t change another person. It’s also important to know that a person who is abusive needs help to change—from a counselor, or someone who is specifically trained in this work. There are counselors who work with abusers, but one important thing to remember is most abusers are what we call narcissistic, meaning they are self-centered and primarily care about themselves only. To change someone who is self-centered is a very difficult task, and sometimes it never happens.

How far can abuse go?

“Can abuse turn into murder?”

“How bad can physical abuse get? How far?”

Physical abuse can become bad enough to kill someone either on purpose or accidentally. There’s also the potential that someone could commit suicide from the distress of being involved in a violent relationship.


Why do they do it?

“Why do some relationships end up abusive?”

“Why would someone say they love someone whey they really don’t? Why would people abuse the one they “love”?

There are many reasons why domestic violence may occur, and the reasons why one person may abuse another person is specific to their situation. Because it depends on the abuser, there are no general reasons why abusers abuse other individuals. But what we do know is that all abusive behaviors are about power and control. No matter what has happened in their past, their goal is power and control.

What is important to remember, though, is that human beings learn through watching others, and through seeing the same thing over and over again. This may explain why some individuals abuse others. Perhaps they saw abusive behaviors in a movie and thought that's how normal relationships operate. Maybe the individual grew up in a household where an abuser was present. There are many factors that may play into someone becoming an abuser.

What is even more important to remember is that whatever you learn you can "unlearn." Many people who see abusive behaviors recognize they are abusive and never abuse their partners. Many individuals who grew up in a household with an abuser have healthy relationships throughout their life. Just because we see it, it doesn't mean we're going to do the same thing. Education on healthy relationships and abusive behaviors is one of the most important parts of breaking the cycle of violence.


Why doesn't the victim break up with their abuser?

"If you aren’t comfortable in a relationship, then why don’t you just break up with them?"

People stay in abusive relationships for many different reasons. Even if they recognize that something is wrong, it isn’t always easy to end the relationship. Some stay because they love their partner, some stay out of hope that happier times will return, some blame themselves, some are afraid, or ashamed, or isolated. Threats from the abuser may keep the victim in the cycle of abuse. Some people have grown up in families where they have learned to link love and violence, and some are dependent on the abuser, emotionally or financially. For these, and many other reasons, it is never as easy to leave as it looks like it should be from the outside.


Is abuse more common in LGBTQ relationships?

No. Domestic abuse in LGBTQ relationships occurs in similar frequencies as in heterosexual relationships. There are differences however. For example, a common form of controlling a partner is threatening to “out” them to friends or family (meaning if they have not told their family that they identify as gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, etc., a threat may be to tell their friends/family members that they identify as LGBTQ).


Why do families fight?

No two people are going to have the exact same point of view on everything, regardless of whether they are married or related to each other. However, it is important to communicate our disagreements in healthy ways, and not with threats, name-calling, or violence. Unfortunately, many people, even adults, haven’t learned to do this. There are resources out there to help families learn to communicate in healthy ways, including counseling. If you feel unsafe in your home, reach out to a trusted adult or the Safe Shelter’s Crisis Line at (303) 772-4422.


When should I be worried about my safety?

"When is it the point to worry about your safety? For example, in an emotional abusive relationship."

If you are wondering if it is time to worry, trust your instincts. If you feel it is a problem, it most likely is. Your gut feelings are the best predictor of danger. Some say that physical abuse leaves “marks” on the body but they go away, whereas, emotional abuse which can result in low self-esteem doesn’t go away as easily and may last for years. Often a relationship starts out without too many problems before it begins to escalate to the potential for physical violence as time goes on. Physical violence becomes more of a threat if there is a break up, or if the abusing partner feels that the victim is seeing other people, isn’t available when they want, or is with others who pose a threat to the abuser.

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What about sexting?

"What should you do if someone is asking for inappropriate pictures?"

It is very important to remember that sending or receiving pictures of a sexual nature (via texts, email, etc.) is ILLEGAL! It is considered child pornography by the law. If you do not want to send them or are not comfortable, you have the right to say so, whether or not you are in a relationship with that person. It is important to be clear about what you want and what you are comfortable with. Set your boundaries, and if someone doesn’t respect them, think about your options and what you are comfortable with, and if you want to continue a relationship with someone who is not respecting your boundaries. If you say no, and someone continues to pressure or harass you via texts, etc., that can be considered cyberstalking. Talk to a trusted adult, parent, counselor, Safe Shelter, or TERA if they do not stop.


Have any of you ever been in one of those relationships?

The staff and volunteers who work at the Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley and the TERA program have come here through many different paths. Some have backgrounds in counseling, some have legal backgrounds, some are here because they have seen what Domestic Violence can to do a loved one, and some are here because they have personally overcome an unhealthy relationship and want to help other do the same. We are all here in hopes of putting an end to Domestic Violence.


Do you help everyone who calls you?

If you feel like you would like to talk with someone at Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley regarding a situation, we would encourage you to call our Crisis Line at 303-772-4422. All calls are confidential, and we want to provide support. We can talk with you on the phone and discuss the possibility of you coming in to meet with an advocate at our outreach office. We will definitely work with you and do what we can to get you help. For a shelter stay, you must be over 18 or emancipated from you parents.