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What is Dating Violence?

Dating violence is a pattern of behaviors used to exert power or control over a dating partner.

Dating violence includes any behavior by a dating partner that

  • is used to manipulate
  • is used to gain control
  • is used to gain power over someone
  • makes a person feel bad about himself or herself or other people who are close to this person (such as friends or family)
  • makes a person afraid of her or his boyfriend or girlfriend

Dating violence happens to boys and girls and can involve physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

Abusive behaviors may include the following.

Physical abuse Emotional abuse Sexual abuse
  • Hitting
  • Shaking
  • Throwing things
  • Pushing
  • Biting
  • Using a weapon
  • Ignoring a date's feelings
  • Insulting a date’s beliefs or values
  • Name-calling
  • Isolating a dating partner from others
  • Telling lies
  • Keeping a date from leaving
  • Threatening to hurt oneself
  • Forcing a date to have sex
  • Forcing someone to have sex without protection
  • Forcing a date to do other sexual things he or she doesn’t want to do

It's important to realize that an abusive boyfriend or girlfriend can use physical or emotional attacks and that emotional abuse can be as serious as physical abuse.

Warning Signs of Dating Violence

For the target:

  • Intense jealousy or possessiveness from dating partner
  • Change in mood or character (depression, moodiness, tendency to be argumentative)
  • Often checks in with partner
  • Unexplained marks on the body (bruises, scratches, burns)
  • Deferring to the partner's every wish
  • Often apologizing for the partner's behavior
  • Poorer academic performance
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Gets visibly upset after phone calls or dates with dating partner
  • Is afraid of making partner angry
  • Describes being "punished" by an angry partner (through silence, humiliation, or force)

For the perpetrator:

  • Gets violent when angry
  • Talks disrespectfully about dating partner, puts down dating partner
  • Brags about having total control over partner
  • Dates other people but doesn't allow partner to do so
  • Gets angry after phone calls or dates with partner
  • Is obsessed with partner's actions
  • Tries to exert control over family members
  • Discusses violent behavior as normal
  • Gets in fights with others, including those of the same sex
  • Has criminal record of abuse
  • Acts out violence toward pets or inanimate objects (for example, kicks dog or punches walls)
  • Talks about getting even with others
  • Blames problems on others or outside circumstances
  • Believes jealousy is a sign of love

Facts about Dating Violence

Dating violence is a very real issue for many students:

  • Nationally, approximately 12 percent of heterosexual high school boys and girls report having been physically victimized by a dating partner in the previous year. This percentage is as high is 40 percent in some areas of the country. 1,2
  • Approximately 13% of gay adolescent girls and 9% of gay adolescent boys report having been physically victimized by a dating partner in the previous year. 3
  • Victimization from psychological dating abuse is even higher with approximately 29% of heterosexual high school students and 20% of gay high school students reporting having been psychologically abuse by a date in the previous year. 3,4
  • Dating abuse is beginning as early as the 6th grade. 5,6
  • Adults who use violence with their dating partners often begin doing so during adolescence, with the first episode typically occurring by age fifteen. 7
  • Young women between the ages of fourteen and seventeen represent 38 percent of those victimized by date rape. 8
  • Rapes by acquaintances account for 60 percent of all rapes reported to rape crisis centers. 9
  • Both girls and boys are victims of dating abuse, though girls receive more severe injuries from dating abuse than boys. 10
  • Both girls and boys are perpetrators of dating abuse, though girls tend to use less severe forms of dating abuse than boys.10,11
  • Abuse almost always reoccurs in a relationship. It doesn't just go away.
  • Most abuse gets more severe over time.

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007). Youth Risk Behavior Survellance System.

2. Foshee, V. A. & Matthew, R. (2007). Adolescent dating abuse perpetration: A review of findings, methodological limitations, and suggestions for future research. In Daniel Flannery, Alexander Vazonsyi, & I. Waldman (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Violent Behavior and Aggression, Cambridge University Press, NY:NY.

3. Halpern, C.T., Young, M.L., Waller, M.W., Martin, S.L.,& Kupper LL.(2004).Prevalence of Partner Violence in Same-Sex Romantic and Sexual Relationships in a National Sample of Adolescents. Journal ofAdolescent Health,35(2),124-131.

4. Carolyn Tucker Halpern, Selene G. Oslak, Mary L. Young, Sandra L. Martin, and Lawrence L. Kupper, "Partner Violence among Adolescents in Opposite-Sex Romantic Relationships: Findings from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health,"
American Journal of Public Health 91, no. 10 (October 2001).

5. Miller-Johnson, S., Gorman-Smith, D., Sullivan, T., Orpinas, P., Simon, T.R. (2009). Parent and Peer Predictors of Physical Dating Violence Perpetration in Early Adolescence: Tests of Moderation and Gender Differences. Journal fo Clinical Child and Adoelscent Psychology, 38(4), 538 - 550.

6. Taylor, B., Stein, N., Mack, A. R., Horwood, T. J., & Burden, F. (2008). Experimental Evaluation of Gender Violence/Harassment Prevention Programs in Middle Schools. Final Report. National Institute of Justice.

7. J. Henton, R. Cate, J. Koval, S. Lloyd, and S. Christopher, "Romance and Violence in Dating Relationships," Journal of Family Issues 4, no. 3 (1983): 467-82.

8. Robin Warshaw, I Never Called It Rape: The MS. Report on Recognizing, Fighting and Surviving Date and Acquaintance Rape (New York: Harper and Row, 1988).

9. Carol Sousa, "The Dating Violence Intervention Project," in Dating Violence: Young Women in Danger, ed. Barrie Levy (Englewood, N.J.: Seal Press, 1998).

10. Archer, J. (2000). Sex differences in aggression between heterosexual partners: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 651-680.

11. Foshee VA, Benefield T, Suchindran C, Ennett ST, Bauman KE, Karriker-Jaffe K J, McNaughton Reyes HL, Mathias J. The development of four types of adolescent dating abuse and selected demographic correlates. Journal of Research on Adolescence 2009;19(3): 380-400.

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