Love shouldn’t hurt, but unfortunately for some people, it does. When thinking of abusive relationships, many people think of physical domestic violence, but this is only one form of abuse. Violence in dating occurs frequently but is seldom reported to authorities. This type of violence occurs when one person purposefully harms the person he or she is dating, whether through physical, emotional, sexual, or even financial means.
Dating violence may occur in heterosexual or same-sex couples and crosses all lines of race, class, sex, and age. It can occur in casual or serious relationships. Basically, no one is safe from becoming a victim. On average, though, the victims are young women ages 16 to 24. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five high school girls have been physically or sexually abused by a person they dated. One in five adolescents also report being victims of emotional violence and abuse.
Emotional abuse may seem “normal” at times, but when the behavior is ongoing and creates feeling of worthlessness it is considered abuse. If you’re on a date and your partner endlessly guilt-trips you, tracks what you do, blames you for everything, tries to control who you talk to and what you like, or threatens you, you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship. Emotional abuse is just as serious as physical violence—in fact, it may be more difficult to recover from.
Sexual abuse occurs when your date pressures you into sexual activity, makes unwanted advances, or tries to mess with your birth control—there is also date rape. Sexual abuse occurs whenever your partner refuses to respect your boundaries.
Physical abuse is more obvious and occurs when your date hurts you, kicks or punches you, slaps or pushes you, or touches you in any unwanted way.
Economic abuse is rarely discussed but is quite prevalent. If your date coerces you into loaning him or her money, manipulates you for cash, or steals your money, you are a victim of economic abuse.
You can’t always pick out a potentially abusive person upon initial meeting, but there are some warning signs to look for. If your date shows any of the following signs, seriously reconsider going out with him or her. Red flags include: breaking objects when upset, a past history of abuse (this behavior doesn’t just go away), extreme jealousy, controlling behavior, split personality, sexist beliefs, hypersensitivity, blames others for problems, cruel to children or animals, or is threatening in any way.
Here are some links on violence in dating:
CDC Dating Violence Fact Sheet
Men Stopping Violence
Michigan Domestic Violence Prevention & Treatment Board: Teen Dating Violence
Dating Violence Prevention Center
Brown University Health Education: Dating Violence
Advocates for Youth
U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services: Violence Against Women
National Network for Family Resiliency
See It and Stop It!
Need help? Unsure if you’re in a healthy relationship? Here are some hotlines to call:
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network
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