What Is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence and emotional abuse are behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control the other. Partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated or dating.
Examples of abuse include:
- name-calling or putdowns
- keeping a partner from contacting their family or friends
- withholding money
- stopping a partner from getting or keeping a job
- actual or threatened physical harm
- sexual assault
- cyber abuse, including threats and putdowns through the interne
Violence can be criminal and includes physical assault (hitting, pushing, shoving, etc.), sexual abuse (unwanted or forced sexual activity), and stalking. Although emotional, psychological and financial abuse are not criminal behaviors, they are forms of abuse and can lead to criminal violence.
Controlling Behavior May Include:
- Not letting you hang out with your friends
- Calling you frequently to find out where you are, whom your with, and what you're doing
- Telling you what to wear
- Having to be with you all the time
Verbal and Emotional Abuse May Include:
- Calling you names
- Belittling you (talking down to you)
- Threatening to hurt you, someone in your family, or himself or herself if you don't do what he or she wants
Physical Abuse May Include:
- Hair pulling
Sexual Abuse May Include:
- Unwanted touching and kissing
- Forcing you to have sex
- Not letting you use birth control
- Forcing you to do other sexual things
ANYONE CAN BE A VICTIM! Victims can be of any age, sex, race, culture, religion, education, employment or marital status. Although both men and women can be abused, most victims are women.
How Do You Know if You Are Being Abused?
Abusers use many ways to isolate, intimidate, and control their partners. It starts insidiously and may be difficult to recognize. Early on, your partner may seem attentive, generous and protective in ways that later turn out to be frightening and controlling.
Early Signs of Abuse
- Quick whirlwind romance
- Wanting to be with you all the time; tracking who you're with and what you're doing
- Jealousy at any perceived attention to or from others
- Attempts to isolate you in the guise of loving behavior
- Quick to blame others for the abuse
- Pressures you into doing things you aren't comfortable with
What Is Dating Abuse?
Dating violence (or relationship abuse) is a pattern of over-controlling behavior that someone uses against a girlfriend or boyfriend. Dating violence can take many forms, including mental/emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. So, you may experience dating violence even if you are not being physically abused. It can occur in both casual dating situations and serious, long-tem relationships.
Is teen dating violence similar to adult domestic violence?
Teen dating violence is similar to adult domestic violence in several ways:
- Both teen dating violence and adult domestic violence effect people from all socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic, and religious groups
- Both occur in heterosexual, gay, and lesbian relationships
- Both tend to show patterns of repeated violence which escalate over time
- Both tend to display violent and abusive behavior interchanged with apologies and promises to change
- Both tend to show increased danger for the victim when he/she is trying to terminate the abusive relationship
How is teen dating violence different from adult domestic violence?
There are several things that make teenage dating violence different from adult domestic violence. Usually, when a teen is abused, he/she becomes isolated from her peers because of the controlling behavior of the abusive partner.
The isolation teens face in abusive dating situations often makes it hard to:
- develop new and mature relationships with peers of both sexes.
- feel emotionally independent.
- develop personal values and beliefs.
- stay focused on school and get good grades.
Teen dating violence often is hidden because teenagers typically:
- are inexperienced with dating relationships.
- are pressured by peers to act violently.
- want independence from parents.
- have "romantic" views of love.
Teen dating violence is influenced by how teenagers look at themselves and others. Young men may believe:
- they have the right to "control" their female partners in any way necessary.
- "masculinity" is physical aggressiveness
- they "possess" their partner.
- they should demand intimacy.
- they may lose respect if they are attentive and supportive toward their girlfriends.
Young women may believe:
- they are responsible for solving problems in their relationships
- their boyfriend's jealousy, possessiveness and even physical abuse, is "romantic."
- abuse is "normal" because their friends are also being abused.
- there is no one to ask for help.
Teenagers can choose better relationships when they learn to identify the early warning signs of an abusive relationship, understand that they have choices, and believe they are valuable people who deserve to be treated with respect.
Early warning signs that your date may eventually become abusive:
- Extreme jealousy
- Controlling behavior
- Quick involvement
- Unpredictable mood swings
- Alcohol and drug use
- Explosive anger
- Isolates you from friends and family
- Uses force during an argument * Shows hypersensitivity
- Believes in rigid sex roles
- Blames others for his problems or feelings
- Cruel to animals or children
- Verbally abusive
- Abused former partners
- Threatens violence
Common clues that indicate a teenager may be experiencing dating violence:
- Physical signs of injury
- Truancy, dropping out of school
- Failing grades
- Changes in mood or personality * Use of drugs/alcohol
- Emotional outburst
Dating Safety Tips
- Consider double-dating the first few times you go out with a new person.
- Before leaving on a date, know the exact plans for the evening and make sure a parent or friend knows these plans and what time to expect you home. Let your date know that you are expected to call or tell that person when you get in.
- Be aware of your decreased ability to react under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Don't leave a party with someone you do not know well.
- Assert yourself when necessary. Be firm and straightforward in your relationships.
- Trust your instincts. If a situation makes you uncomfortable, try to be calm and think of a way to remove yourself from the situation.
Safety Planning for Teens
You should think ahead about ways to be safe if you are in a dangerous or potentially dangerous relationship. Here are some things to consider in designing your own safety plan.
- What adults can you tell about the violence and abuse?
- What people at school can you tell in order to be safe--teachers, principal, counselors, security?
- Consider changing your school locker or lock.
- Consider changing your route to/from school.
- Use a buddy system for going to school, classes and after school activities.
- What friends can you tell to help you remain safe?
- If stranded, who could you call for a ride home?
- Keep a journal describing the abuse.
- Get rid of or change the number to any beepers, pagers or cell phones the abuser gave you.
- Keep spare change, calling cards, number of the local shelter, number of someone who could help you and restraining orders with you at all times.
- Where could you go quickly to get away from an abusive person?
- What other things can you do?
Effects of Dating Violence
Dating violence can range from broken bones and bruised self-esteem to permanent injury and even death. Victims may also come to view abuse as a normal part of their relationships. Dating violence can prevent a young person from growing and learning about healthy relationships.
Some of the effects are:
- loss of appetite
- mistrust of self and others
Build Healthy Relationships by:
- communicating clearly
- avoiding dangerous situations
- being in control
- being selective
- trusting your instincts
In An Unhealthy Relationship?
- believe in yourself
- get help
- get out
Breaking Up is Hard to Do
No matter what type of relationship you are in, breaking up can be a difficult task. We are often being tugged in different directions by our emotions. Here are some of the reasons why it's hard to break up:
Love-Abusers are not always hurtful. Many abusers have a likable and loving side that makes their victims believe that abuse may stop. Many victims think they can change the abuser's behavior.
Fear-Many times a date/partner will threaten to hurt him/herself if the other decides to leave. Many times the abuser will threaten to hurt the victim if he or she decides to leave. Abusers often threaten that the violence will get worse if the partner decides to leave.
Doubt-It's not always easy to admit that the relationship you are in is abusive. If your date is popular at school you may be concerned with losing social status.
Embarrassment-Teens who ask for help (especially from parents) may perceive themselves to be failures. Some teenagers believe that their parents will react violently if they are aware of the abuse.
Know a Victim of Dating Violence?
If you know a victim of dating violence:
- believe the person
- support the person
- suggest options
Need Someone to Talk to?
Crisis Help Line 1-800-233-4357
National Youth Crisis Line 1-800-448-4663
Child Help USA, National Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
Richmond YWCA 804-643-0888