Romantic relationships are supposed to be happy, uplifting experiences. Unfortunately, dating and relationships can become violent for some individuals. Violence in dating relationships can happen to people of all ages, both males and females, and at every socioeconomic level. While dating violence can happen to people of all ages, statistically, young women and girls are at the highest risk. According to loveisrespect.org, girls and women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the most violence at the hand of an intimate partner. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that over 9 percent of high school students have reported being physically hurt on purpose by their dating partner. The following information describes different types of violence in relationships, how to recognize the signs, ways to get help for those suffering from dating violence, and how to prevent violence in relationships.
What is Dating Violence?
In simplest terms, dating violence consists of certain behaviors that are used in a relationship to gain control or power over the other dating partner. Gaining power over the individual through manipulation and violent actions is the driving force behind this type of behavior. The one exhibiting this behavior may also attempt to make their dating partner feel bad about him or herself. They may also try to alienate the person from family and friends. This is usually done in an attempt to keep the abused partner solely relying on the abuser.
Violence is sometimes related to certain risk factors. Unhealthy relationships and even violence have a higher incidence of occurring when the couple uses alcohol or drugs, suffer from depression or anxiety, and associate with peers who are violent. Having multiple sex partners, trouble at school, and lacking parental support or supervision when in high school are also risk factors. There are higher rates of violence in relationships among those living in poverty situations. This may stem from conflicts over finances and the lack of education and guidance to learn how to properly deal with these conflicts.
A person’s peer group is also a determining factor regarding how prevalent violence is in dating relationships. Those who have friends that are involved in violent relationships are more likely to find themselves in a similar situation. Those who live in communities and cultures where violence, such as shootings and gang violence, is considered acceptable are more likely to be involved in violent personal relationships.
Specific Behaviors That May Occur
According to Violence Prevention Works, dating violence falls primarily into three distinct categories. These include physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. While physical violence can involve hitting and punching, other behaviors such as pushing, shaking, or throwing items can also be considered physical violence. Sexual abuse can include forcing the date to have sex. It is also considered abuse if the person agrees to have sex but is forced to do so without using contraception. Forcing partners to engage in specific types of sexual activity that they don’t feel comfortable participating in is also abuse.
Emotional abuse is sometimes more subtle and harder to recognize than physical or sexual abuse. Isolating the partner from friends or family is one form of emotional abuse. Name calling, insults, and even ignoring the other person’s feelings can all become patterns of abuse. Dating violence often starts with emotional abuse and over time the abuse may become physical or sexual. Abuse can be digital as well. While in a dating relationship a violent partner may demand to know passwords or check a partner’s cell phone. Ex-dating partners can use social media and other forms of technology to intimidate, stalk, or harass an individual.
How to Recognize the Signs
There are several different signs to watch for in both the perpetrator of violence and in those who are at the receiving end of violent behavior. Obvious physical signs include bruises, scratches, and other signs of injury. Those who are victims will sometimes start doing poorly in school or their performance at work may suffer. The person suffering from the violence may often check in with the other partner or ask permission before going out. He or she may also act differently when their dating partner is around.
Shelterhousemidland.org lists some warning signs to look for that suggest a young person may become abusive or violent. Those who are quick to get in and out of dating relationships may have a greater tendency to become abusive. Other signs include those who are extremely jealous, display bossy behavior, constantly criticizes their partner, and can’t take no for an answer.
Getting Help For Yourself
If you’re the victim of violence in a dating relationship you may think that it’s your fault. Your partner may have convinced you that you’ve brought his or her bad behavior on yourself. The first thing you need to realize is that these accusations are simply not true. You may also feel afraid and unsure of what might happen next. The first step is to tell someone what is happening.
Womenshealth.gov suggests several tips for safely leaving an abusive relationship. Always make sure you have a working cell phone with you so you can call for help if necessary. If you’re attempting to leave someone you’re dating from your high school or college tell someone in a professional position. This might include a guidance counselor, professor, principal, teacher, or school nurse. If you have a job you will want to discuss this with your boss or someone in human resources you trust. In case the individual would try to stalk or harass you at work it is best to let your employer know before anything happens that unacceptable behavior on the abuser’s part is a possibility. Finally, don’t make your schedule known on Facebook and keep all passwords to yourself. If the person you’ve been dating knows any of your passwords they should be changed immediately.
Getting Help For Someone Else
Being willing to just listen is a good way to help a friend or loved one who may be suffering from violence in a relationship. During the initial stages of trying to help ask the person if there’s anything you can do to help. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you should do anything that’s inappropriate or obviously not in the person’s best interest. This is a good way, however, to open up dialogue and see if there is any way you can assist the individual and help guide them in the right direction. One thing that should not be done when trying to help someone is confronting the individual the person is dating. It’s important not to come between the individual you’re trying to help and the abuser.
It is necessary to understand some of the barriers that often prevent those who experience dating violence from getting help. Even though their partner is exhibiting unacceptable behavior, an individual may still be afraid of hurting his or her feelings. The person, may however, fear retaliation from the individual he or she is dating when trying to get help. If the person is in high school or college, he or she may fear getting into trouble with parents. Sometimes those who suffer from violent behavior are confused, scared, and embarrassed, and simply feel that others won’t understand their situation.
Promoting Positive Dating Experiences
Approaching this problem proactively and educating young people before they even start dating is the best way to prevent violence. Advocates for Youth suggests teaching skills to young people to promote healthy relationships. Young people should be taught that in a healthy relationship both partners will respect and trust one another. They will also respect each other’s differences. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation preventing dating violence should begin in middle school. Parental involvement is crucial at this stage, making It as important to educate parents as it is young people. Parents are usually more involved in their children’s life at this age and can help them navigate through early relationships.
When going out with a new person there are several precautionary steps to take to make sure the new dating experience is a positive one. If the person is someone who’s been met online, make sure the first date takes place in a public place. Young people who have met someone in high school or college should consider a double date when first going out. Going out in groups is a good idea when you really don’t know a person well, regardless of the age of the couple. Be careful if alcohol is involved and never leave a drink unattended. Finally, an individual should be prepared ahead of time to leave a date if ever becoming uncomfortable around the other person. It’s a good idea to tell someone ahead of time where the date is taking place, have cash available for a cab, and always carry a charged cell phone. With increased education and awareness we can all help stop dating violence.