Dating violence is repeated physical, emotional, or sexual abuse used to frighten, hurt, and control another person. In a violent dating relationship, one person is afraid of and intimidated by the other. Abuse can take place among people who may be “going out,” dating, living together, engaged, or married. Violence within an intimate relationship includes, but is not limited to, the following behaviors:
- Physical Abuse: Includes pushing, shoving, pinching, scratching, hitting, kicking, slapping, abandoning in a dangerous place, and holding someone to keep them from leaving.
- Emotional Abuse: Includes name-calling, constant criticizing, threatening, public humiliation, controlling behavior, isolating from others, behaving jealously, and destroying possessions.
- Sexual Abuse: Includes continued sexual advances after being told “no,” unwanted or uncomfortable touching, calling someone sexually derogatory names, and forced sex.
If any of these are happening in your relationship, talk to someone. Without help, the abuse is likely to continue and even worsen.
Are you going out with someone who:
- Is jealous and possessive toward you, won’t let you have friends, checks up on you, won’t accept breaking up?
- Tries to control you by being very bossy, giving orders, making all the decisions, or not taking your opinions seriously?
- Makes you afraid? Do you worry about how they will react to things you say or do? Do they threaten you or use or own a weapon?
- Is violent? Has a history of fighting, loses temper quickly, brags about mistreating others?
- Pressures you for sex or is forceful or scary around sex? Do they think of you as a sex object?
- Attempts to manipulate or guilt trip you by saying things like, “If you really love me you would?”
- Gets too serious about the relationship too fast?
- Abuses drugs or alcohol and pressures you to take them?
- Blames you when they mistreat you? Say you provoked them, pressed their buttons, made them do it, led them on?
- Has a history of bad relationships and blames the other person for all the problems?
- Believes that one person should be in control and powerful and that one person should be passive and submissive in a relationship?
- Your family and friends have warned you about the person or told they were worried for your safety?
If you answer yes to one or more of the previous questions, you are experiencing abusive behavior.
There are many ways we can talk about love. But there are certain images and words describing what love is that leads to confusion and sometimes to bad situations if acted on. In fact some of these messages are actually what love isn’t. There are many things about love that can’t be summed up in a word. Here are two lists to help you sort out what love is or isn’t. These are to help you decide how you want to be treated.
• Hard work
• Recognizing differences
• Strong feelings
• Just sex
• Being selfish
• Getting pregnant
• Getting someone pregnant
• Giving up yourself
• Proving yourself
• Expecting all your needs to be met
Most importantly, remember that you are not responsible for the abuse. No matter what anyone tells you, no one ever asks to be abused. Abusers make a conscious choice to be violent and intimidating. They use their anger as a tool to gain power and control over their victims. But even with this knowledge, you can’t make the abuser stop hurting you. If leaving the relationship is not an immediate option for you, help is available in the meantime.
Tell an adult you trust. Like the abuse itself, the pain and fear it causes won’t magically vanish.
Create a safety plan. This is a way for you to end the relationship and get the extra emotional support you need. This may include hiding an extra set of car keys and spare cash so that you can get away in an emergency. Also, review your options if you were abused and unable to get away—calling 911, setting off fire alarms, signaling to a neighbor, etc.
Call our 24-hour helpline at 1-800-863-9909. You can call anonymously; all of our services are free and confidential.
For the National Domestic Violence Hotline, call toll free at 1-800-799-7233.
- Most importantly, believe the victim. Victims need to know they will not be doubted or blamed for the abuse.
- Don’t judge or criticize.
- Listen to what they have to say.
- Recommend that your friend get the help of a trusted adult, and encourage them to get out of the relationship.
- Suggest options. Often a victim of abuse will feel there are no choices.
- Let them be in control of the planning and decision-making, including who knows about the dating violence.
- Ask them if there is anything you can do, but know that you do not have the power to fix everything.
- Tell them that the abuse is not their fault and that they are not to blame no matter how guilty they may be feeling. Also, tell them that the abuser is the one with the problem and it is the abuser’s responsibility to change their behavior.
- Afterwards, take care of yourself. Hearing about dating violence can be difficult and upsetting. It is normal to feel angry, but confronting the abuser is not going to make the situation better.
- Discuss your feelings with a domestic violence project or a school counselor.
Victims of domestic violence usually try to find a way of getting away from the violence without having to break up. They are clear that they want the violence to stop: by staying they are not choosing to be hurt, but they are not clear that they want the relationship to end. It may take more strength or courage than they have right now.
Here is a list of reasons that some victims stay in an abusive relationship:
- “I really loved them (when they were not being violent) and hoped they would change.”
- “I felt I was the only one who understood my partner. They needed me. I felt I could help.”
- “They would cry and promise not to do it again. I believed them.”
- “My friends think my partner is great. I’m ashamed to admit we have problems, I keep trying to make things work.”
- “I was afraid of my partner because they threatened to hurt or kill me, or other people I might go out with.”
- “I felt lucky to have my partner, and believed that no one else would want to be with me; I was convinced that I was ugly and stupid.”
- “We go to the same school. I was pressured by their friends, like I was doing something terrible to them when I told him I wanted to end the relationship.”
- “I believed that everything would be fine when my partner’s problems were solved, for example: no pressure from parents or school.”
- “I believed the violence would stop when we lived together or got married because they would trust me.”
- “I have tried to break up, but my partner harassed me or became so depressed that it scared me, so I tried to keep things calm until the “right” time.”
- “I had a baby with my partner. How could I break up with the parent of my kid?”