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Dating Violence

By Amy Otis, RN

Dating violence is defined by the United States Department of Justice as: “the perpetration or threat of an act of violence by at least one member of an unmarried couple on the other member within the context of dating or courtship”. This also includes dating between same sex couples, although most statistics have been gathered from heterosexual couples.

Statistics show that one in three teenagers has experienced violence in a dating relationship. In dating violence, one partner tries to maintain power and control over the other through some kind of abuse. Dating violence crosses all economic, racial and social lines, most victims are young women who are also at higher risk for serious injury.

Women ages 16 to 24 experience the highest per capita rates of intimate violence -- nearly 20 per 1000 women. (Bureau of Justice Special Report: Intimate Partner Violence, May 2005).

You may have a teenage daughter or son, or your baby-sitter is a teenager. It's up to all of us to know the signs of dating violence so we can ask the right questions and hopefully stop some of this violence against women. This does not exclude homosexual relationships.

Teen dating violence often is hidden because teenagers typically:

 Are inexperienced with dating relationships.
 Want independence from parents.
 Have romanticized views of love.
 Are pressured by peers to have dating relationships.

Teen dating violence is influenced by how teenagers look at themselves and others. Young men may believe:

 They have the right to "control" their female partners in any way necessary.
 “Masculinity” is physical aggressiveness
 They "possess" their partner.
 They should and can demand intimacy.
 They may lose respect if they are attentive and supportive toward their girlfriends.

Young women may believe:

 They are responsible for solving problems in their relationships
 Their boyfriend's jealousy, possessiveness and even physical abuse, is "romantic."
 Abuse is "normal" because their friends are also being abused.
 They think they can "cure" the abusive boyfriend
 There is no one to ask for help.

Teenagers can choose better relationships when they learn to identify the early warning signs of an abusive relationship. Teens can choose better relationships when they understand that they have choices, and believe they are valuable people who deserve to be treated with respect.

Early warning signs that your date may eventually become abusive: Extreme jealousy, controlling behavior, quick involvement, mood swings, alcohol and drug use, explosive anger, isolates you from friends and family, uses force during an argument, shows hypersensitivity, blames others for his problems or feelings, verbally abusive, has abused former partners, threatens you with violence.

Common clues that indicate a teenager may be experiencing dating violence:

 Physical signs of injury
 Truancy, and or dropping out of school
 Failing grades
 Changes in mood or personality
 Use of drugs/alcohol -- where there was no prior use
 Emotional outbursts
 Isolation from friends and family

Help is available for teenagers! If you are a teenager involved in an abusive relationship, you need to remember that no one deserves to be abused or threatened.

Dating Safety

You may want to consider double-dating the first few times you go out with a new person. Before leaving on a date, know the exact plans for the evening and make sure a parent or friend knows these plans and what time you expect to be home. Let your date know that you are expected to call or tell that person when you get in.

Be aware of your decreased ability to react under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you leave a party with someone you do not know well, make sure you tell another person you are leaving and with whom. Ask a friend to call and make sure you arrived home safely.

Trust your instincts. If a situation makes you feel uncomfortable, try to be stay calm and think of a way to remove yourself from the situation.

Teen Dating Statistics
About one in three high school students have been or will be involved in an abusive relationship. Forty percent of teenage girls ages 14 to 17 say they know someone their age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend.

Teen dating violence most often takes place in the home of one of the partners. In 1995, 7 percent of all murder victims were young women who were killed by their boyfriends. One in five or 20 percent of dating couples report some type of violence in their relationship. One of five college females will experience some form of dating violence. A survey of 500 young women, ages 15 to 24, found that 60 percent were currently involved in an ongoing abusive relationship and all participants had experienced violence in a dating relationship. One study found that 38 percent of date rape victims were young women from 14 to 17 years of age. A survey of adolescent and college students revealed that date rape accounted for 67 percent of sexual assaults.

More than half of young women raped (68 percent) knew their rapist either as a boyfriend, friend or casual acquaintance. Six out of 10 rapes of young women occur in their own home or a friend or relative’s home, not in a dark alley. More than 4 in every 10 incidents of domestic violence involves non-married persons (Bureau of Justice Special Report: Intimate Partner Violence, May 2001) (Other statistic from the U.S. Department of Justice).

If someone hurts you, or your child, or makes you feel scared or bad in any way, it’s important to talk about it and tell someone what is happening. Tell your parents, a teacher, or another adult you can trust. You can also go to a local domestic violence program in your area for help. If you are unsure of that, just look in the yellow pages under "Abuse" or "Domestic Violence."

You are worth more than the treatment you've received. Make that call. Amy Otis, RN

The National Domestic Violence Hotline in the USA is: 800-799-7233

Statistics from the US Department of Justice - 2004 -

Update August 2009: More Resources and Organizations:

1. Love is Respect - National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline - 1-866-331-9474

2. Choose Respect

3. Office for Victims of Crime

4. Office on Violence Against Women


6. National Center for Victims of Crime

7. National Domestic Violence Hotline

8. National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center


ACOG test, see how you do, if you are in a relationship that is filled with fear and/or violence:


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