Love. It’s a pretty basic human need. We crave love and physical touch from the moment we are born. We enter the world kicking and screaming and we are instantly soothed, calmed and centered once we receive that first loving touch. That loving touch comforts us entirely and let’s us know that we are safe and secure. But not all physical touch comes from a loving place or leaves us feeling safe and comforted. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and since I write about all things dating, I’m going to take a break from the usual sex, sex and more sex to talk about something serious—dating violence.
Dating violence is when one person purposely hurts or scares someone they are dating. Dating violence happens to people of all races, cultures, incomes, and education levels. It can happen on a first date, or when you are deeply in love. It can happen whether you are young or old; in heterosexual or same-sex relationships.
Dating violence includes:
- Physical abuse like hitting, shoving, kicking, biting, or throwing things
- Emotional abuse like yelling, name-calling, bullying, embarrassing, keeping you away from your friends, saying you deserve the abuse, or giving gifts to “make up” for the abuse.
- Sexual abuse like forcing you to do something sexual (such as kissing or touching) or doing something sexual when you cannot agree to it (like when you’re drunk).
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, Females ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experienced the highest rates of intimate partner violence. Also, nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively). And more than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Those statistics are beyond alarming!
Teen Dating Violence
Anyone who has read more than one of my articles knows that I am a huge proponent of female empowerment. After reading the statistics on teen dating violence, I think I might focus my efforts on a younger crowd more often. It is both shocking and saddening to learn that 23% of girls (and 14% of boys) between the ages of 11 and 17 experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. As if that isn’t alarming enough, studies have shown that girls who are victims of dating violence in high school are at higher risk for victimization during college.
So where do we even begin solving this problem? Education!
Signs You Could Be Dating an Abuser
We don’t always realize that we are dating someone who could, potentially, be an abuser. We have these ideas and images in our heads of what domestic violence looks like. We convince ourselves that our situation isn’t domestic or dating violence based on those preconceived images and ideas. Here are some dating violence red flags to watch for:
- Constantly checking up on you
- Isolating you by criticizing your friends
- Driving a wedge between you and your family
- Acting overly charming
- Monitoring (and/or pushing for access to) your social media accounts
- Moving too fast in a relationship
- Wanting to control your finances
- Putting down your appearance
- Quickly dismissing your opinions or calling you stupid
Stop the Silence, Break the Cycle
The issues of domestic violence and dating violence are very close to me personally. I’m a survivor. I grew up in a home full of domestic violence and then went on to experience domestic and dating violence in my romantic relationships. Society tends to blame the victim. “Why didn’t she just leave?” “If that were me I wouldn’t put up with that!” But living it and judging it from the outside are two very different things! You feel alone, ashamed, afraid, depressed, judged. You create this fake perfection in order to cover up the disaster that is your life. More often than not you feel trapped and hopeless.
Victims don’t always realize that they are in an abusive relationship. If anything that you’ve read here sounds like it might describe your relationship you need to get out. Help is available to you by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 | 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).
If you are the victim of domestic and/or dating violence I want you to know: You are not alone. You have nothing to be ashamed of. This is not your fault. You can get out. There is hope. You are brave. You can do this!