Dating Violence

General Information

Dating violence is a repeated pattern of actual or threatened acts that emotionally, verbally, physically, or sexually hurt another person. One partner tries to maintain power and control over the other through abuse. Teenagers often experience violence in dating relationships. This can happen in same-sex relationships as well. Dating violence crosses all racial, economic, and social lines. Most victims are young women, who are at greater risk for serious injury. Teenagers can choose better relationships when they learn to identify the early warning signs of an abusive relationship, understand that they have choices, and believe that they are valuable people who deserve to be treated with respect.

General Characteristics To Look For

Teen dating violence is often hidden because teens are typically inexperienced with dating relationships; are pressured by peers to act violently; want independence from parents/caregivers; and have romantic views of love. Teen dating violence is influenced by how teens look at themselves and others.

The following are examples of some of the different forms that dating violence can take:

  • Physical abuse: hitting, blocking, pushing, pinching, biting, choking, and threatening with a weapon
  • Emotional abuse: insulting, pressuring, blaming, smashing things, possessiveness, stalking, isolating, cheating to make someone feel insecure, insulting someone’s identity (e.g., culture, race, gender, income level, sexual orientation, physical/mental abilities), following, continual emailing, calling, or texting
  • Sexual abuse: unwanted sexual contact, forcing a date to do sexual things, pushing or tricking someone into sex, forced kissing or touching, refusal to use a condom or other method for safer sex
  • Financial abuse: controlling money, making someone depend on you for money
  • Spiritual abuse: insulting someone’s beliefs, stopping someone from following their faith or religion.

Young men may believe that:

  • they have the right to control their female partners in any way they want
  • masculinity is the same as physical aggressiveness
  • they should demand intimacy
  • they may lose respect if they are attentive to and supportive of their girlfriends
  • it is impossible for them to be the victims of abuse at the hands of their girlfriends (role reversal).

Young women may believe that:

  • 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
  • there is no one to ask for help
  • it is impossible for them to be abusive towards their boyfriends (role reversal).

Impact On Student Success

Traumatized students are more likely to struggle in school, be absent from school, and engage in behaviours that lead to suspensions.

  • While it is critical that the victim’s safety be considered at all times, everyone is required by law to comply with statutory reporting obligations for suspected physical and sexual abuse and to report instances of criminal violations of existing restraining orders to the local police. Putting victim safety first means considering the possible impact of any course of action on the victim. It is important to ask the question: will he/she be endangered by anyone as a result of these actions? Safety planning with the victim and his/her support providers is a necessary part of reporting or notifying others on behalf of the victim.
  • Be aware of jokes, movies, media, TV programs, advertising, music, music videos, and video games that are demeaning to women and may promote violence against women.
  • Form a violence prevention committee made up of parents/caregivers, school staff, and community partners.
  • Participate in staff development on violence prevention.
  • Teach prevention so that students become more aware of verbal and physical abuse in their own relationships.
  • Organize special dating violence awareness events for students, including theatre productions performed by students or a youth drama club.
  • Include programs that promote the building of self-esteem and positive ways of relating to people.
  • Promote positive ways to deal with anger and resolve conflict (e.g., Conflict Busters, Peacekeepers, Vikings for Victims, Positive Peer Culture).
  • Develop school protocols and provide teachers with relevant professional development opportunities.
  • Students who do not feel safe will be severely impaired in their abilities to learn. Put protocols in place regarding student disclosures.
  • Cultivate a safe school climate with zero tolerance for violence and teach values and skills related to non-violence.
  • Enforce codes of conduct and disciplinary action and explain why they are necessary.
  • Teach children to resolve conflicts without violence.
  • Teach them that the use of force and insults is not acceptable in a caring relationship.
  • Teach them that no one has the right to possess or control another person.
  • Teach them that excessive jealousy is not a sign of love but a sign of insecurity and a need to control.
  • Teach them to treat others with respect.
  • Organize/participate in school violence awareness nights for parents/caregivers.
  • Screen TV, video games, and other media for any form of violence.
  • Support the need for treatment programs and criminal justice programs specifically for abusive teen males.
  • As community advocates, tell representatives of the media or advertisers that the portrayal of violence as a way to solve problems, control other people, or get one’s own way is not acceptable.
  • Collaborate on and advocate for violence prevention strategies in our community.