Exploring Interpersonal Violence & Ways To Manage Violent Behavior

What is interpersonal violence?

Interpersonal violence occurs when one person uses power and control over another through physical, sexual, or emotional threats or actions, economic control, isolation, or other kinds of coercive behavior. 

If you are a victim of sexual assault, call a friend or family member you trust. You also can call a crisis center or a hotline to talk with a trained volunteer. One hotline is the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-4673.

Feelings of shame, guilt, fear and shock are normal. It is important to get counseling from a trusted professional. The US Department of Health and Human Services, Women’s Health Information website provides additional information about what to do if you have been sexually assaulted.

Types of Interpersonal Violence


Abuse is any behavior toward another person that is physically violent or uses emotional coercion, or both, and one person is in a position of authority. Abuse can look like: 

  • Controlling what you do or who you can be around
  • Gaslighting you, or making you question your reality because of them lying or invalidating your experience
  • Jealousy for no reason, checking your private messages to make sure you’re not cheating on them 
  • Physical violence, like punching, choking, slapping, or shaking you
  • Possessiveness that isolates you from your friends and family
  • Putting you down in private or in public
  • Sexually abusing you
  • Threatening you with words or behaviors that make you feel unsafe

If you’re curious about what an abusive relationship looks like and how to get out of one, check out our article Am I in an Abusive Relationship? to learn more.


Bullying is a type of harassment that can be verbal, physical, or online. It can also take the form of coercion where someone is threatened by another person and as a result of those threats, the person being bullied feels intimidated and pressured into acting a certain way or doing a certain thing. This is called peer pressure.

Bullying can occur in all settings—school, work, home, your neighborhood, and on the internet.

Intimate Partner Violence (Domestic Violence)

Intimate Partner Violence occurs when one intimate or romantic partner tries to maintain power and control over the other through words and actions that are physically and emotionally abusive. Dating violence can take many forms including:

  • Physical violence
  • Coercion
  • Threats
  • Intimidation
  • Isolation
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse.

It can be instigated by people of all genders and occurs in all types of relationships, i.e. heterosexual, homosexual, asexual, monogamous, ethically non-monogamous, interracial, interabled, etc. According to the CDC and another study revolving around LGBTQ+ populations, nearly 1 in 4 women, 1 in 7 men, and about 1 in 3 transgender people have experienced some form of severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. 

Sexual Violence

Sexual Violence is any type of sexual activity that a person does not agree to. It can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. This can happen between strangers, acquaintances, coworkers, classmates, “friends”, intimate partners, and family. This can also happen at any age and the abuser can be another child, teenager, or adult. It includes:

    • Inappropriate touching
    • Vaginal, anal, or oral penetration
    • Sexual intercourse that a person says no to
    • Rape or attempted rape
    • Sexual harassment or threats
    • Peeping or Voyeurism (watching private sexual acts)
    • Exhibitionism (exposing themselves in public)
    • Telling you to do sexual things in front of them that you’re not comfortable with

Youth Violence

Youth violence refers to aggressive behaviors, such as:

  • Slapping
  • Hitting
  • Kicking
  • Bullying
  • Punching
  • Fist fighting
  • Knife fighting
  • Robbery
  • Rape
  • Killing someone 

What triggers violence?

There are a number of reasons why a person might become violent. Some of those reasons might be:

  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Sadness
  • Trying to control another person
  • Having a short temper

A person’s belief system might also influence how the person behaves. Someone who acts aggressively or violently may believe that violence is an acceptable way to deal with anger or an acceptable way to get something that the person wants. The person may also have grown up in a family where violence was part of how family members interacted with each other.

Some Ways to Stop Being Violent

Violence is NOT okay and nobody should have to put up with it. Being angry, confused or frustrated are all normal emotions, and there are non-violent ways of expressing these emotions. If you’re having trouble managing your anger, you might want to check out the Anger & Violence and Anger Management articles.

Deciding to do something about your violent behavior is a big step and it takes a lot of courage.

What makes you violent?

To stop this behavior, it might be useful to make a list of the things that trigger your violent behavior. This could be a person, a situation, a mood, or drugs and alcohol. By knowing what triggers your violent behavior, you can start to avoid these things or try to work out ways to deal with the situation.

It might be helpful to leave the situation when you start feeling yourself getting angry, and distracting yourself with something so your mind and body can cool down. Once you’re feeling more stable, you can go back and try to find a solution to move forward with whatever triggered you. 

Check out our articles Express Yourself: Healthy Ways to Express Your Emotions and Developing Coping Strategies to learn new ways to deal with stress.

Who is affected by your violent Behavior?

Spending time questioning yourself can lead to huge personal growth! Some questions you could ask yourself include:

  • Does my violent behavior negatively impact others?
  • How could my actions be affecting my relationships?
  • How can I hold myself accountable when I act in ways that don’t support a healthy, loving relationship with others?

These questions might help you see how your violent behavior can negatively affect you and the people around you.

Talk to someone

Putting an end to violent behavior is not always easy, and having someone to support you can be helpful. You don’t have to do it by yourself. Going to counseling or visiting another mental health professional might be able to help you find ways to deal with your violent behavior. 

Finding ways to channel your anger could also help! Look into martial arts training and fitness classes to find a healthy outlet for your anger.

Drugs, Alcohol & Violence

Certain drugs and alcohol can increase the likelihood that a person might act in a violent way. If you’re finding that you become violent while drinking or taking drugs, you might want to look at ways to better manage your drug and alcohol intake. A counselor or other mental health professional who specializes in addictions counseling can help you do this. 


Information for this article was provided by:
Acknowledgements: This article was partially developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

About Youth Era

Youth Era is a nonprofit that works with teens and young adults to become happy, successful, and contributing adults members of their communities. The organization creates solutions for communities across the country that look beyond short-term assistance for the few and toward sustainable support for the many. To learn more, visit www.youthera.org.

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