Dating abuse, where one party in an unmarried relationship inflicts violence on the other, has expanded to include digital abuse via electronic devices and the internet. Females in the age range between 16 and 24 comprise the highest percentage of dating violence. And about 4 in 5 victims of abuse within an intimate relationship are women. Of American adolescents, roughly one-third have been subjected to physical, emotional and sexual dating violence
How can teens and young adults tell if they are victims of dating abuse? Often, controlling behavior such as restrictions from the company of friends or family, possessiveness and jealousy are mistaken as expressions of love.
Here are the warning signs that help you to identify this unhealthy type of relationship:
Physical attack – kicking, shoving, hitting, strangling, destroying property, using a weapon
Sexual abuse – rape, coercion through threats
Verbal abuse – yelling, hurling insults, name-calling
Emotional blackmail – threat of public humiliation, threat of harming the other person or committing suicide
Psychological abuse – using manipulative behavior, gas lighting, denial, blaming
Cyber abuse – snooping, sexting, revenge porn, demanding passwords to emails and social media accounts, checking cell phone, cyberbullying, stalking online
Things to Know about Perpetrators of Dating Abuse and their Victims
Abusive people learn the behavior from seeing it frequently, usually in the home when one parent abuses the other or a sibling or when they are the victims of abuse themselves. Others see abuse in pop culture and on television shows, and think it is normal behavior. Abusive persons usually have a mental health issue, such as narcissistic personality disorder or drug and alcohol abuse. This violent behavior commonly manifests itself in the teenage years and is more serious if started early.
Victims of abusers often rationalize their partner’s behavior and may even believe that they are at fault for stirring up the violence. Other reasons for staying in such a relationship are fear and shame, so that they cannot open up to family or a trusted person about their situation and continue to stay.
Young people who are exposed to continuous recurring dating abuse are likely to suffer long-term consequences such as depression, suicidal intents, eating disorders, substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, promiscuity, etc. Early intervention is necessary to prevent these negative effects. In California where teen dating violence is a major concern, San Diego domestic violence attorneys advise taking legal action before the abuse escalates and ends up in tragedy.
In the meantime, here are actions you can take based on guidance and tips from civic groups and advocates:
Solicit support for your physical, emotional and sexual trauma. If you have a close-knit and supportive family, confide in them. Seek professional help from a doctor, guidance counselor, lawyer and the authorities if you are in immediate danger.
Always have your cell phone with you. Create a code with your parents or a trusted person that will let them know you are in danger.
Avoid going out, walking or riding alone in isolated areas.
If you are in the same school as your abusive boyfriend or girlfriend, change schedules or transfer to another school. Tell school authorities about your problem. If it’s a co-employee, approach the human resources department or ask for a transfer to another location, if there is such an option.
Don’t post your whereabouts on social media. Modify your account settings and change your passwords.
Avoid hanging out in places where your ex-partner usually goes.
Although studies have shown that abusive partners can reform, they rarely go to these treatment programs voluntarily. If you are a parent of a teen who you suspect is a victim of dating abuse, act now before things get worse.