By Christine Murray, See the Triumph Co-Founder
Dating violence is an all-too-common experience among teenagers today. According to LoveIsRespect.org: “Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.” For many reasons, however, many adults, teenagers, school officials, and others are not talking enough about how to prevent dating violence and help teens have safe, healthy relationships. This means that many teenagers and their family members likely don’t understand the characteristics of an abusive relationship. But without this information, how will teens and their families be able to recognize a potentially abusive relationship?
A basic definition of dating violence is that it is any form of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse within a current or former dating relationship (Murray & Graves, 2012). Physical violence can involve anything from pushing and hitting to violence with weapons and strangulation. Anything that your partner intentionally does that potentially hurts your body in any way can be considered physical violence. Sexual abuse involves a partner trying to force you or coerce you to do anything related to sex or physical intimacy that you don’t want to do. And, emotional abuse describes when an abusive partner acts in ways that degrade, isolate, control, or hurt your emotional wellbeing. These descriptions of dating violence are broader than many people think, and it’s important to remember that a relationship can be abusive even if there isn’t any physical abuse.
If you’re dating someone, or even considering whether to date someone, be on the lookout for any potential warning signs that they may be prone to abuse. The Red Flag Campaign put together a great list of these warning signs, which you can find by clicking here. Often, an abusive person doesn’t show their true colors right away, so be mindful of these red flags even after you’ve been in the relationship for a period of time. Trust your instincts--If someone you’re dating makes you feel bad about yourself, if they are trying to control you or tell you what to do, or if you’re afraid of them, those are some good signs that you need to be very cautious about being in a relationship with them. If you find yourself in a relationship that you think might be abusive, seek help from a trusted adult or a professional, such as a school counselor, mental health counselor, or domestic violence agency.
It’s scary to think that dating violence can happen in relationships. But, by knowing the warning signs to look for you, you can be more equipped to recognize a potentially abusive relationship and take action to stay safe if you have a potentially abusive partner.
So, our third message during this third week of our focus on #safedating4teens is this: Know the warning signs of abuse, and take them seriously if you see them.
Murray, C. E., & Graves, K. N. (2012). Responding to family violence. New York: Routledge.