Love is not supposed to hurt
When you’re a teenager, it can be hard to know what kind of behaviour is right or wrong when it comes to dating. First love is an exciting and new experience, and it can be difficult to think for even a minute that this love could actually be harmful. In many cases it’s not, but unfortunately there are some teens that are victims of abuse, often known as dating violence.
If you or someone you know is experiencing dating violence, it’s important to know and understand the signs. Then you can get help or at least know how to help your friend or loved one.
What is Dating Violence?
29% of adolescent (11 to 20 years old) girls and 13% of boys reported some form of abuse in their dating relationships in a study conducted by Prince et al in 2000.
Dating violence can be more than just physical abuse (like hitting or shoving). It can also be verbal, emotional or sexual abuse. Insults, guilt trips, name calling, jealousy, pressure to be sexually active and isolation from friends/family are considered violence.
Every relationship has its problems, whether you’re a teenager or adult. But no relationship should ever include violence – if it does, you need to get help.
Is my relationship violent? Early warning signs
Dating violence is a pattern of destructive behaviours used to exert power and control over a dating partner. While we define dating violence as a pattern, that doesn’t mean the first instance of abuse is not dating violence. It just recognizes that dating violence usually involves a series of abusive behaviours over a course of time.
Warning Signs of Abuse
Because relationships exist on a spectrum, it can be hard to tell when a behaviour crosses the line from healthy to unhealthy or even abusive. Use these warning signs of abuse to see if your relationship is going in the wrong direction:
• Checking your cell phone or email without permission
• Constantly putting you down
• Extreme jealousy or insecurity
• Explosive temper
• Isolating you from family or friends
• Making false accusations
• Mood swings
• Physically hurting you in any way
• Telling you what to do or how to dress
If you are in an abusive relationship, you may feel like you are all alone-know that you are not. There are resources available to help you stay safe, build a support system and access legal protection.
If you think there’s something wrong with your relationship…
You may recognize that there is a problem in your relationship, but you are too ashamed, embarrassed or scared to tell your family and friends. You might be afraid of losing your partner or worried that no one will believe you. Or maybe you don’t feel able to leave the relationship because you are confused or don’t feel very confident. The reality is, if you stay in the relationship the abuse may get worse.
All relationships have difficulties and challenges, but no relationship should EVER include violence. You are not responsible for the other person and your decision to leave or stay should not be guided by fear. If you are afraid or intimidated in your relationship, talk to someone that you trust: a friend, parent, teacher or one of the counsellors at the West Island Women’s Shelter. You have a right to be treated with respect and you deserve to feel safe.
For friend or parents
If your friend or family member is undergoing the serious and painful effects of dating violence, they may have a very different point of view than you. They may have heard the violence was their fault and feel responsible. If they do choose to leave, they may feel sad and lonely when it’s over, even though the relationship was abusive. They may get back together with their ex many times, even though you want them to stay apart. Remember that it may be difficult for your friend/family member to even bring up a conversation about the abuse they’re experiencing.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend who you think may need help. Let them know you’re concerned for their safety and want to help out.
- Be supportive and listen patiently. Acknowledge their feelings and be respectful of their decisions.
- Help your friend recognize that the abuse is not normal and that it’s NOT their fault. Everyone deserves a healthy, non-violent relationship.
- Focus on your friend or family member, not the abusive partner. Even if your loved one stays with their partner, it’s important they still feel comfortable talking to you about it.
- Connect your friend or family member to resources in their community that can give them information and guidance. Remember, The West Island Women’s Shelter can help, we can even provide support and guidance for concerned friends and family.
- Help them develop a safety plan.
- If they break up with the abusive partner, continue to be supportive after the relationship is over.
- Even when you feel like there’s nothing you can do, don’t forget that by being supportive and caring — you’re already doing a lot.
- Don’t contact their abuser or publicly post negative things about them online. It’ll only worsen the situation for your friend.
Power and control wheel and equality wheel.