Dating Violence 101
Dating violence happens everywhere. But many people are afraid to talk about it. Here's what you need to know about this common—and commonly ignored—problem.

HOW BIG IS THE PROBLEM?
WHO DOES IT HAPPEN TO?
WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF ABUSIVE BEHAVIOR?

Physical Abuse - pushes or shoves you, slaps or hits you, pulls your hair, kicks or punches you, restrains you with force, chokes you, throws objects at you, abandons you in a dangerous place, grabs you roughly, twists your arm, takes "playful wrestling" too far, pinches you, subjects you to reckless driving, threatens you with weapons.

Emotional Abuse - Ignores your feelings, withholds approval, appreciation or affection as punishment, continually criticizes you (calls you names, shouts at you), makes all decisions for you, wants to control all your actions, humiliates you in public or in private, ridicules your most valued beliefs, your religion, your culture, your race/heritage.

Sexual Abuse - Calls you sexual names, forces you to take off your clothing, touches you in ways that make you feel uncomfortable, forces you to have sex against your will, treats members of your gender as objects, insists you dress more or less sexually than you want to, minimizes the importance of your feelings about sex, accuses you of sexual activity with others.


WHAT HAPPENS IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP?

The "Cycle of Violence" is a way of looking at what happens in violent relationships; not all violent relationships work this way, but many of them do.

Tension Building - This is where the stress is building toward an explosion. Victims often describe it as a "walking on eggshells" feeling--you know something is going to "blow" but you don't know when or why. Often victims will try to do something to keep the situation from blowing up, thinking that if they could "just get it right" the violence would not occur.

Explosion - Where an incident of violence happens. Unfortunately, this is usually the thing we tend to focus on when we are not aware that partner violence can be a cycle, and so sometimes we say things like "Well, what did you do to set that person off," or "I know what a pain in the butt you can be, you must have really ticked him/her off"—not realizing that the violence is not in isolation—and not recognizing there is nothing the victim can do to keep the violence from occurring! The thing is, there is nothing the abused person did to cause this, and nothing they can do to prevent it.

Honeymoon - This is what sometimes happens after the violence occurs. What are some of the things you might hear an abusive person say at this point? They may say things like:

Realize that the honeymoon stage is what really locks a person in to the cycle because we want to believe that this person who is sorry is the person we love, and this is the "real" person, and if we could just get it right, he or she would be like this all the time. But you can't get it right because it is not your fault, it is the fault of the abuser and without professional help, the cycle will start over again. Also, understand that the cycle of violence tends to increase in frequency and severity over time—so it doesn't just get better by itself! In fact, it will probably get worse.


WHY DO PEOPLE ALLOW IT TO HAPPEN AND WHY DO THEY STAY?
WHY DO BATTERERS BATTER?
WHAT ARE WARNING SINGS OF A POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS RELATIONSHIP?

Extreme jealousy - Everyone gets jealous sometimes, the key word here is "extreme." If your partner gets mad when you talk to other people, have good friends, or express warm feelings for anyone else, he/she may be abusive.

Possessiveness - It is not love to call you all the time. It may seem like a lot of great attention at first, but it can turn in to "checking up on you." If you have to "check in" with your partner at certain times, that could be a red flag. A danger if someone treats you as if they own your body and/or your time.

Controlling attitude - No one should be telling you how to wear your hair, your makeup, your clothes, who you can and cannot talk to, etc. If one partner completely rules the relationship, and makes all the decisions, this is a danger sign.

Feeling fear - If you are starting to be afraid to tell your partner things for fear of how he/she will react, or if you ask your friends not to tell your partner things because you are concerned about them "taking it wrong," be aware.

Strict gender roles - No one should demean your gender, or use language that indicates they think women are less than men, or vice versa. It may seem like "old fashioned" or "gentlemanly" behavior, but it is something to watch for.

Low self-esteem - In a dating relationship, a person with low self-esteem may say, "I'm nothing without you," or "You are my world." They may also threaten to hurt themselves if the partner ever leaves them. Remember, that is also abusive behavior!

Blaming and being overly sensitive - You may notice the person blames other people for their problems (grades, work, friends, parents) even when it is obviously something they did to themselves. They may become easily angered or easily misinterpret what other people say to them always "taking things the wrong way."

Unpredictable mood swings - You notice dramatic shifts from being jealous, controlling, or angry to being sweet, charming, and loving.

Alcohol and drug use - Intoxication is often used as an excuse for violent behavior. Alcohol and drugs DO NOT create violence; they only lower existing violent inhibitions.

Explosive anger - Watch out for people who seem to get "too angry". These people may hit walls, yell loudly, call names, or actually threaten others with violence. They may also get really angry when driving, or may talk about being mean to animals or children.

Too much, too soon - Too many phone calls, telling you "I can't live without you" very quickly, talking about a commitment and future plans after a very short time, wanting to be "exclusive" too soon and wanting to spend inordinate amounts of time with you.
WHAT ARE HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS?

In healthy relationships, people: If you don't have these things in your current relationship, you deserve to have them! We all do!


WHAT IF YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT A FRIEND?

If you think a friend might be a VICTIM in an unhealthy relationship, these are things to look for:If you think a friend might be an ABUSER in an unhealthy relationship or if a person tells you he/she has been behaving in any of the abusive ways outlined above:
HOW CAN YOU HELP A VICTIM?

HOW CAN YOU HELP YOURSELF?

If you think you might be a victim, you are too valuable not to get help. If you think you might be an abuser, you are also too valuable not to get help. Things CAN change and no one deserves to be hurt!

You can start by calling your local domestic violence shelter or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE!