What is dating violence?
Dating violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner. That definition seems simple at first but its worth taking a closer look at a few key points. First, notice that dating violence is a pattern of behavior. This does not necessarily mean that the first instance of abuse is not dating violence, but merely that dating violence usually involves a series of abusive behaviors over a course of time. This definition also points out that the core of dating violence is power and control.
The important thing to remember is that dating violence occurs within an intimate relationship. The relationship may be sexual, but it does not have to be. It may be serious or casual, monogamous or non-monogamous, short-term or long-term.
What does dating violence look like?
A pattern of put-downs, name-calling, yelling, or threats leveled against a dating partner. Abusers use words to gain power and control over their victim, often damaging their partner’s self-esteem and emotional health. Teens experience the same types of abuse in relationships as adults. This can include:
- Physical abuse - any intentional use of physical force with the intent to cause fear or injury, for example hitting, shoving, biting, restraining, kicking, strangling, or use of a weapon.
- Emotional /psychological abuse - non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring, humiliation, intimidation, isolation, or stalking.
- Sexual abuse - any action that impacts a person's ability to control whether or not sexual activity occurs.
While teens experience the same types of abuse, often the methods are unique to teen culture. The use of any technology to control, pressure, or threaten a dating partner is considered dating violence. This includes hacking a partner’s email account or going through their phone to keep track of who they’re talking to, harassing or threatening via social media, pressuring a girlfriend or sext, or sending repeated and unwanted calls or text messages. Teens often report receiving threats in text messages or being stalked on their SnapChat or Instagram account.
Who is affected by dating violence?
Teens of all ages can experience dating violence. Boys and girls can both be victims and abusers. Dating violence can happen in heterosexual and homosexual relationships. "I think that teens stay in situations where they can be harmed because they don't see another alternative and they don't see that they need help." Jose, 15
Have a Safety Plan
What is a Safety Plan? A safety plan is an individualized set of actions, strategies, and resources that addresses a teen's safety with regard to dating violence or sexual violence. Here are some tips for Safety Planning:
- Keep a list of phone numbers in your wallet, backpack, or purse with you at all times.
- Every few days, consider changing your route to and from school, work, extracurricular activities, and home.
- Keep a calling card and/or extra money in an "emergency wallet" that you have with your always.
- Think about the people in your life you turn to when you need help or when times are tough. Maybe it's a teacher, a counselor, a coach, a pastor. Whoever this person(s) is, consider reaching out to them about what you are experiencing.
- If you have a support network of friends and family and if you feel safe, let them know about the concerns and safety plan with them.
- Consider changing your locker or school schedule.
- Have a journal that documents the abuse that you are going through and keep the journal in a safe place.
- With your support network, especially your friends, have a code word that you use if the abuser is present and you need help so your friends can call the police and/or other people to help you.
Remember, a good safety plan is teen-driven, empowering and frequently reevaluated.
POP QUIZ (answers at bottom of page)
What percentage of young teens (ages 11-14) in relationships know friends who have been verbally abused (called stupid, worthless, ugly, etc) by a partner?
a. 5% b. 25% c. 47%
What percentage of teens in relationships have been sent text messages 10, 20 or 30 times an hour by a partner wanting to know where they are, what they are doing and who they are with?
a. 30% b. 10% c. 25%
What percentage of high school students have been physically forced to have sexual intercourse?
a. 2% b. 15% c. 8%
Other sites with information on teen dating violence
Key to Pop Quiz (c,a,c)