WHAT WE KNOW
- Past estimates of dating violence among middle school and high school students range from 28% to 96%.
- One recent national survey found that one in 11 high school students reported having been hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the past year.
- One in 11 students also reported having been forced to have sexual intercourse when he or she did not want to.
- Far greater numbers of teens (as high as 96%) reported emotional and psychological abuse in their dating relationships. Although most victims are young women, dating violence can also affect males. Dating violence crosses all social, racial, sexual orientation, and economic lines.
Psychological and Emotional Abuse
If you're humiliated, insulted, or sworn at by your boyfriend or girlfriend, you are experiencing psychological and emotional abuse.
- Attempting to control a boyfriend or girlfriend's activities
- Trying to destroy his or her self-confidence and self-esteem
- Isolating the person from other friends and family
- Threats of violence are also abusive and should always be taken seriously.
Physical abuse includes these behaviors:
- Pulling hair
- Using a weapon, such as a club, knife, or gun, against a boyfriend or girlfriend
Both teenage boys and teenage girls reported being victims of physical violence in relationships. Typically, however, teenage boys and teenage girls use physical force for different reasons and with different results. While both tend to report acting violently because they were angry, teenage boys are much more likely to use force to control their girlfriends, while girls more often act violently in self-defense.
Teenage girls suffer more from relationship violence, emotionally and physically. They are much more likely than teenage boys to have serious injuries and to report being terrified. In contrast, male victims seldom seem to fear violence from their dates or girlfriends, often saying that the attacks did not hurt and that they found the violence amusing.
Sexual Assault or Abuse
The term "sexual abuse" refers to forced or unwanted sexual activity or rape. It is also considered sexual abuse to coerce or pressure someone to engage in sexual activity or to try to engage in sexual activity with someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Teenage girls in heterosexual relationships are much more likely than teenage boys to suffer from sexual assault or abuse.
Why does it happen?
- There is a direct correlation between dating violence and low self-esteem. Generally, those perpetrating violence have a poor self-image; they victimize others to make themselves feel better or more powerful. As a result of the violence, the victims' self-esteem diminishes often to the point that they believe they have done something to warrant the abuse. This is a dangerous cycle.
- Adolescents who are most at risk for perpetrating dating violence are those who have experienced previous abuse or maltreatment themselves, who abuse drugs and/or alcohol, who regularly witness violence in their community, and whose parents have or had a violent or abusive relationship.
- Teens who are likely to be abused in a relationship are those who abuse drugs and alcohol, have minimal support from friends and family, have previously experienced abuse, and have a history of many dating partners.
- Another risk factor for both perpetrators and victims is a lack of dating experience. Teens who are just beginning to date may not know what is acceptable behavior in a relationship and what is not. It is important for parents, health educators, and school counselors to discuss with teens the importance of respect and safety in a relationship before teens begin dating.
- If your boyfriend/girlfriend/date exhibits extreme jealousy, possessiveness, mood swings, uncontrollable anger and/or signs of substance abuse, these are signs that you should consider ending the relationship.
- Other signs that your relationship may become potentially abusive include verbal abuse, belief in rigid gender roles, abuse of former partners, and cruelty to animals and children.
- It is critical for teens to realize that abusive relationships are never normal and that their partner's possessiveness or jealousy is not romantic. Many teens fear that they will be "dumped" if they do not comply with certain demands made by their partner; this is especially true with regard to sex.
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