Dating Violence

What Does Dating Violence Look Like?

Physical Abuse: any intentional use of physical force with the intent to cause fear or injury, like hitting, shoving, biting, strangling, kicking or using a weapon.

Verbal or Emotional Abuse: non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking.

Sexual Abuse: any action that impacts a person’s ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs, including rape, coercion or restricting access to birth control.

Digital Abuse: use of technologies and/or social media networking to intimidate, harass or threaten a current or ex-dating partner.  This could include demanding passwords, checking cell phones, cyber bullying, sexting, excessive or threatening texts or stalking on Facebook or other social media.

Stalking: You are being stalked when a person repeatedly watches, follows or harasses you, making you feel afraid or unsafe. A stalker can be someone you know, a past partner or a stranger. While the actual legal definition varies from one state to another, here are some examples of what stalkers may do: Show up at your home or place of work unannounced or uninvited. Send you unwanted text messages, letters, emails and voicemails. Leave unwanted items, gifts or flowers. Constantly call you and hang up. Use social networking sites and technology to track you. Spread rumors about you via the internet or word of mouth. Make unwanted phone calls to you. Call your employer or professor. Wait at places you hang out. Use other people as resources to investigate your life. For example, looking at your Facebook page through someone else’s page or befriending your friends in order to get more information about you. Damage your home, car or other property.

Early warning signs of dating violence

Are you going out with someone who…

  • Is excessively jealous
  • Checks in with you constantly or makes you check in with him/her
  • Has an explosive temper
  • Is violent: has a history of fighting, abuses animals, brags about mistreating others
  • Tries to control you by giving orders, making all the decisions, telling you what you should and should not wear
  • Pressures you or is forceful about sex
  • Isolates you from friends and family and puts down people who are important to you
  • Believes in the stereotypical gender roles for males and females
  • Gets too serious about the relationship too fast
  • Blames you when he/she mistreats you; tells you that you provoked him/her
  • Does not accept responsibility for his/her actions
  • Has a history of bad relationships and blames them on previous partners
  • You fear – you worry about how he/she will react to things you say or do
  • Owns or uses weapons
  • Won’t let you break up with him/her

** Adapted from The Dating Violence Intervention Project in Cambridge, MA and Chance for Change.

Safety planning for teens in abusive dating relationships

General Safety:

  • Stay in touch with your friends and make it a point to spend time with people other than your partner.
  • Stay involved in activities that you enjoy. Don’t stop doing things that you enjoy or that make you feel good about yourself.
  • Make new friends. Increase your support network.
  • Consider looking into resources at your school or in the community. Think about joining a support group or calling a crisis line.

Safety at School:

  • Try not to be alone. Let your friends know what is happening and have them walk to classes and spend time during lunch with you.
  • Tell teachers, counselors, coaches, or security guards about what is happening. Have them help you be safe.
  • Change your routine. Don’t always come to school the same way or arrive at the safe time. Always ride to school with someone. If you take the bus, try to have someone with you.
  • Consider rearranging your class schedule.
  • Always keep your cell phone with you so you can make phone calls. You can also use a phone card. If neither of these options are available, be sure to go to the School Office and let them know you need to use their phone.
  • Consider applying for an order of protection.

Safety at Home:

  • Try not to be alone.
  • Consider telling your parents or other family members about what is happening. They can help you screen your telephone calls or visitors.
  • Make a list of important phone numbers. Included on this list should be emergency numbers like 911, as well as supportive friends who you call when you are upset. Put the numbers of crisis lines on the list.
  • If you are alone at home, make sure the doors are locked and the windows are secure.

Safety With Your Partner:

  • Try not to be alone with your partner, or to be alone in an isolated or deserted location. Go out to public places.
  • Try to double date or to go out with a group of people.
  • Let other people know what your plans are and where you will be.
  • Try not to be dependent on your partner for a ride.
  • Always keep cell phone, phone card, or extra change with you in case you need to make a phone call.
  • TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. If you feel you are in danger, call the police. Get help immediately. Do not minimize your fears.

Safety When Breaking Up With Your Partner: Ending an unhealthy or abusive relationship is not like ending a healthy one. Your abusive partner may not accept the break up or respect your boundaries. They may try to control you through guilt trips, threats or insults. It may be very difficult to have a peaceful or mutual breakup with an abusive partner. Just know that as long as YOU are ok with the decision, it’s ok if your partner is not. If you’re thinking of ending your relationship, consider these tips:

  • If you don’t feel safe, don’t break up in person.  It may seem cruel to break up over the phone or by email, but it may be the safest way.
  • Break up with your partner in a public place.
  • Tell other people that you plan to break up with your partner. Let them know where you will be.
  • Don’t try to explain your reasons for ending the relationship more than once. There is nothing you can say that will make your ex happy.
  • Arrange to call a friend or a counselor after you talk with your partner so that you can debrief about what happened.
  • If your ex does come to your house when you’re alone, don’t go to the door.

** Information from Renton Area Youth Services, Youth Eastside Services, and Love is Respect.Org

How to help a friend

One out of every three teenage girls will experience dating abuse or violence in their dating relationship by the time she is 18. If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship, here is what you can do to help:

  • LISTEN. This might be the single most important and helpful thing that you can do. Let her/him talk without interruption or judgment.
  • BELIEVE. Tell your friend the abuse is not her/his fault and that she/he is not alone. Tell your friend that she/he does not ever deserve to be abused.
  • KNOW THE WARNING SIGNS of dating violence. Help your friend recognize the abuse by asking questions about what is happening to her/him. Help your friend see that what is happening is not normal and is not acceptable. Tell her/him that the abuse will probably get worse. Suggest a safety plan.
  • SUPPORT YOUR FRIEND’S STRENGTH. Recognize the things your friend does to take care of her/himself. Encourage your friend’s courage. Do not encourage her/him to stay in the relationship, but do not judge her/him for staying.
  • PROTECT YOUR FRIEND’S PRIVACY. Talk to her or him in a safe and private place. Respect her/his right to keep her/his concerns confidential.
  • KNOW YOUR OWN LIMITS. Dating violence is serious. You cannot rescue your friend. Contact an expert on dating violence for your own support, and encourage your friend to do the same. Give your friend the number for Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County and /or urge her/him to talk to a safe adult about the abuse. Offer to go with your friend to talk with an adult she/he trusts. Do not take it personally if your friend refuses your help or does not want to share what is going on with you.

** Information adapted from In Love and In Danger: A Teen’s Guide to Breaking Free of Abusive Relationships, Levy, B. (1993) and Renton Area Youth Services.

If you need assistance or if you have questions, call our 24-hour Crisis Hotline 425-252-2873.  It is confidential and they can help.
(V/TTY available 8am-5pm)

For Parents of Teens

Teens Need Adults to:

  • Listen
  • Model strength, openness, trust, and cooperation
  • Respect intelligence
  • Value teen’s fears
  • Respect teen desire to be independent
  • Provide a clear, understandable conceptual framework to aid in problem solving
  • Provide options
  • Prevent rudeness, judging (especially about appearance), lecturing, attitudes of disrespect
  • Emphasize local community information, services, and networks
  • Understand systematic mistreatment that young people receive in this adult-defined world and correct that mistreatment
  • Avoid victim blaming statements
  • Avoid reaffirming sex-role stereotypes
  • Believe in the severity of the abuse
  • Acknowledge the role of power and control in abusive relationships, and how authority figures can replicate that role.
  • Validate the victims concerns

Unique Aspects of Teen Dating Violence Relationships:

  • Teens resist seeking help from parents and other adults, especially authority figures. Fear of losing their newly gained independence can deter a teen from accessing resources.
  • Lack of experience in dating relationships makes teens more susceptible to gender stereotypes.
  • Romanticized ideals about relationships and love may cause teens to confuse jealousy, possessiveness, and abuse with signs of love and affection.
  • Lack of experience and peer group norms make it difficult for a victim to judge if his/her partners behavior is out of line. Isolation can make it even more difficult to do a reality check
  • Relationships are frequently perceived as very significant by teens. Although they may be shorter in length, they can be experienced as intensely as adult relationships.
  • Teenage women are vulnerable because of the double standard of sexual morality for women and the resulting fear of a bad reputation among peers.*
  • Peer intervention can end or escalate a relationship. Many aspects of peer intervention may ultimately increase the risk to the victim.
  • The victim is often unable to avoid the abuser because they attend the same school.
  • Many adults do not take teen relationships seriously, discounting them as puppy love or over-dramatized.

Adapted from The Curriculum Project: The Minnesota Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

*Denise Gamache (74) in Barrie Levy’s Dating Violence – Young Women in Danger.