Identifying Relationship Violence: 14 Signs of an Aggressor’s Behavior

Campus police should be able to recognize signs of relationship violence.

Public safety officers patrolling college campuses have a unique opportunity to interact with, or at least see, students every day. Officers should use that opportunity to look for signs that things might not be right.

Although extreme incidents like active shooters get more attention, relationship abuse is actually a far more common crime at colleges. That’s why it’s important to familiarize yourself with the warning signs of relationship abuse.

Recently, one of the most comprehensive sources of research-based information on the subject came from Pamela Lassiter-Cathey and Dr. Wind Goodfriend’s Institute for the Prevention of Relationship Violence (IPRV), an organization located on the campus of Buena Vista University in Iowa.

In the extraordinary forthcoming book, Before the Boil: The Early Warning Signs of a Potentially Violent Relationship, the authors have advanced our ability to understand what have become very familiar conditions and warning signs that ultimately evolve into volatile – and in many cases, highly dangerous – relationships.

Their research has produced a comprehensive, well-tested list of relationship dynamics, which, according to IPRV, offers a much more complete assessment of a relationship. Using a scale of one to 10, this assessment focuses on 14 related but independent areas of an aggressor’s behavior.

1. Uses charm or charisma to get what he/she wants
2. Moves quickly to become committed and exclusive early on in the relationship
3. Wants everything this instant and doesn’t think about the consequences
4. Makes everything about him/her
5. Feels entitled to criticize others
6. Blames other people for his/her own failures or negative behaviors
7. Holds grudges and brings up past transgressions to gain sympathy or power
8. Has sudden, fast mood swings
9. Appears to have a lack of sympathy for others and/or the ability to see things from anyone else’s point of view
10. Has a low tolerance for frustration and gets annoyed and/or angry easily
11. Acts possessive and/or jealous, demands to know other people’s thoughts and actions
12. Attempts to control all aspects of the lives of people close to him/her
13. Easily addicted to substances (e.g., drinking or smoking), habits or work
14. Has acted in a violent way in the past

To read the complete article on relationship violence, check out How Campus Public Safety Departments Can Be Agents of Cultural Change.

Randy Burba is the current president of IACLEA and is the chief of public safety at Chapman University. Stan Skipworth is the director of campus safety at the Claremont University Consortium. For more information on the IPRV, visit

Skipworth will be presenting Fighting Technology-Facilitated Crime: Cyber Stalking; Sextortion, Sexual Abuse, Hate Crime and Domestic Violence this December at Campus Safety Online Summit, Dec. 5-7. To register, visit

Originally posted April 25, 2017.

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