Dating violence is defined by the U.S. Dept. of Justice as: “the perpetration or threat of an act of violence by at least one member of an unmarried couple on the other member within the context of dating or courtship.”
This also includes dating between same sex couples, although most statistics have been gathered from heterosexual couples. Statistics show that one in three teenagers have experienced violence in a dating relationship. In dating violence, one partner tries to maintain power and control over the other through some kind of abuse. Dating violence crosses all economic, racial and social lines; most victims are young women who are also at higher risk for serious injury.
Teen dating violence often is hidden because teenagers typically:
- Are inexperienced with dating relationships.
- Want independence from parents.
- Have romanticized views of love.
- Are pressured by peers to have dating relationships.
Teen dating violence is influenced by how teenagers look at themselves and others.
Young men may believe:
- They have the right to “control” their male/female partners in any way necessary.
- “Masculinity” is physical aggressiveness.
- They “possess” their partner.
- They should and can demand intimacy.
- They may lose respect in their peer groups if they are attentive and supportive toward their girlfriends/boyfriends.
Young women may believe:
- They are responsible for solving problems in their relationships.
- Their boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s jealousy, possessiveness and even physical abuse, is “romantic.”
- Abuse is “normal” because their friends are also being abused.
- They think they can “cure” the abusive boyfriend/girlfriend.
- There is no one to ask for help.
Teenagers can choose better relationships when they learn to identify the early warning signs of an abusive relationship and understand that they have choices, and believe they are valuable people who deserve to be treated with respect.