Learn what dating violence is and its forms, warning signs for dating violence, what teens can do, and assistance available.
What is dating violence?
Dating violence is a kind of intimate partner violence that occurs between two people in a close relationship. It can be verbal, physical, or emotional abuse by one partner against the other within the context of either casual dating or a long-term relationship.
What forms can dating violence take?
Dating violence can take many forms, including psychological and emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse.
Psychological and emotional abuse frequently involves the use of verbal and nonverbal communication where one partner humiliates, insults, or swears at the other to exert control. Other examples include: attempting to control a partner’s activities, trying to destroy his or her self-confidence and self-esteem, and isolating the person from other friends and family.
Physical abuse is when one partner hurts the other by hitting, slapping, punching, shoving, kicking, biting, hair-pulling, or using another type of physical force. It also includes the use of a weapon, such as a club, knife, or gun, against a partner. While both teenage boys and girls report acting violently because they were angry, teenage boys are much more likely to use force in order to control their girlfriends, while girls more often act violently in self-defense.
Sexual abuse refers to forced or unwanted sexual activity or rape. It is also considered sexual abuse to coerce or pressure someone to engage in sexual activity or try to engage in sexual activity with someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Teenage girls are much more likely than teenage boys to suffer from sexual abuse.
Dating abuse can happen via technology, including cell phones and social media like Facebook. Communication at all hours of the day and night is often used as a way to control a partner.
Anyone can be a victim of dating violence.
How frequently does dating violence occur?
According to recent statistics, it is extremely likely that you or someone you know has experienced violence in a dating relationship. In the 2019 CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Youth Risk Behavior Survey, among the high school students who participated, about 1 in 12 reported experiencing physical dating violence in the 12 months before the survey. Similarly, about 1 in 12 reported experiencing sexual dating violence.
It is difficult to say exactly how frequently dating violence occurs because different studies and surveys ask about it in different ways and get very different results. Some studies only ask about physical abuse, while others include questions about psychological and emotional abuse and sexual violence.
One recent national survey found that as many as one in 12 high-school students said they had been hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their partner in 2019. Far greater numbers of teens (as high as 96 percent) report emotional and psychological abuse in their dating relationships.
What are the warning signs for dating violence?
- Soon after beginning to date, the partner pressures the other to make the relationship very serious.
- The partner becomes extremely jealous and possessive, and thinks these destructive displays of emotion are signs of love.
- The partner tries to control the other and to forcefully make all decisions, refusing to take the views or desires of the other seriously. He or she may also try to keep the other from spending time with close friends or family.
- The partner verbally and emotionally abuses the other by doing such things as yelling, swearing, manipulating, spreading false and degrading rumors, and trying to make the other feel guilty.
- The partner drinks too much or uses drugs and blames the alcohol and drugs for his or her behavior.
- The partner threatens physical violence.
- The partner has abused a previous boyfriend or girlfriend or accepts and defends the use of violence by others.
How can you tell if a friend might be in an abusive relationship?
Your friend may be a victim of dating violence if he or she:
- often cancels plans at the last minute;
- worries about upsetting his/her partner;
- has injuries that cannot be explained, or explanations that do not seem true;
- frequently apologizes for his/her partner’s behavior;
- gives up things that used to be important to him/her; and/or
- has a dramatic change in weight or appearance.
If you see any of these signs, be alert to the possibility of dating violence.
What should someone do if he or she is in a violent, or potentially violent, relationship?
- Make a safety plan and get help. Talk with someone you trust – a teacher, a guidance counselor, a doctor, a friend, or a parent.
- You may also want to contact local law enforcement or a local domestic violence center or call the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance (VSDVAA) at 1-800-838-8238. Phone lines are open 24 hours and calls are free and confidential.
It is important for a person in a violent relationship to realize the violence will not just stop or go away.
What is a protective order?
Under serious circumstances, you can apply for a protective order. (See at https://www.vacourts.gov/forms/district/info_sheet_protective_order_stalking.pdf). A protective order is a legal document issued by a judge or magistrate to protect the health and safety of a person who is alleged to be a victim of any act involving violence, force or threat that results in bodily injury or places that person in fear of death, sexual assault or bodily injury. (Code of Virginia § 19.2-152.10).
If the person in need of the protective order is under the age of 18, a parent/guardian will have to accompany them to file the request. (1) They would go to their local Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Intake Office (Court Services Unit); (2) fill out an affidavit with facts they believe support their request for the protective order; (3) they would then go before the Judge to swear to the facts in the affidavit are true; (4) if appropriate, the Judge will issue a temporary protective order and set the matter for a full hearing – where witnesses would be called to testify.
If the person is over the age of 18, they can apply for a protective order through the General District Court.
When a protective order is issued it may include any or more of the following conditions: (1) prohibiting violent acts, (2) contacts by the respondent with the petitioner or family or household members, (3) any relief necessary to prevent violent acts, criminal offenses, or further communication, and (4) granting the possession of any animal companion if the petitioner meets the owner definition in § 3.2-6500.
What should I do if I suspect a friend is in a violent relationship?
You might try to find out for sure by saying something such as, “You don’t seem as happy as usual” or asking in general terms, “Is there anything you want to talk about?” This non-confrontational and indirect approach may prompt your friend to reveal what’s wrong. Listen without judging, condemning, or giving unwanted advice.
If a friend wants help, suggest that he or she make a safety plan and get help. The Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance (VSDVAA) can provide valuable information and assistance. Their toll-free number is 1-800-838-8238; phone lines are open 24 hours and calls are free and confidential.
If you believe your friend is in serious danger, talk with an adult you trust immediately about your friend’s situation so that you aren’t carrying the burden by yourself. Do not try to rescue your friend or be a hero and try to handle the situation on your own.
Is there help for someone who is violent toward his girlfriend or her boyfriend?
Dating violence is both wrong and illegal. The Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance (VSDVAA) can provide valuable information and assistance in finding individuals and groups who can help. Their toll-free number is 1-800-838-8238; phone lines are open
24 hours and calls are free and confidential.
Other resources include:
- the Local Victim/Witness Program, Domestic Violence Service Agency, Sexual Assault Crisis Center, Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Intake Office, the General District Court, and/or other organizations such as the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 1-866-331-9474 and Love is Respect (https://www.loveisrespect.org/)