Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime. Dating violence often starts with teasing and name calling. These behaviors are often thought to be a "normal" part of a relationship. But these behaviors can set the stage for more serious violence like physical assault and rape.
Teen dating violence is defined as the physical, sexual, or psychological/emotional violence within a dating relationship, as well as stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and may occur between a current or former dating partner. You may have heard several different words used to describe teen dating violence.
Here are just a few:
About 1 in 5 women and nearly 1 in 7 men who ever experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey).
What are the consequences of dating violence?
As teens develop emotionally, they are heavily influenced by their relationship experiences. Healthy relationship behaviors can have a positive effect on a teen's emotional
development. Unhealthy, abusive or violent relationships can cause short and long term negative effects, or consequences to the developing teen. Victims of teen dating violence are more likely to do poorly in school, and report binge drinking, suicide attempts, and physical fighting. Victims may also carry the patterns of violence into future relationships.
Why does dating violence happen?
Communicating with your partner, managing uncomfortable emotions like anger and jealousy, and treating other with respect are a few ways to keep relationships healthy and non-violent. Teens receive messages about how to behave in relationships from peers, adults in their lives, and the media. All too often these examples suggest that violence in a relationship is okay. Violence is never acceptable, but there are reasons why it happens.
Violence is related to certain risk factors. Risks of having an unhealthy relationship increases for teens who:
Dating violence can be prevented when teens, families, organizations, and communities work together to implement effective prevention strategies.
MYTH: Battering is rare.
FACT: Battering is extremely common. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in our country, and the FBI estimates that a woman is beaten every 15 seconds. National studies indicate that at least 1 in 10 American women each year are abused by the men in their lives. In fact, half of all marriages involve at least one episode of violence between spouses. At least 1.8 million of these women are severely beaten every year. Thirty percent of female homicide victims are killed by partners or ex-partners and 1,500 women are murdered as a result of domestic violence each year in the United States. These statistics are shocking. However, the actual extent of the problem may be even worse since only an estimated 1 in 10 episodes is even reported to the police. Domestic violence is this country's most under reported crime.
MYTH: Domestic violence occurs only in poor, uneducated and minority families.
FACT: Studies of domestic violence consistently have found that battering occurs among all types of families, regardless of income, profession, region, ethnicity, educational level or race. However, the fact that lower income victims and abusers are over-represented in calls to police, battered women's shelters and social services may be due to a lack of other resources.
MYTH: Women provoke beatings/abusive incidents. They must like it or they would leave.
FACT: Victim provocation is no more common in domestic violence than in any other crime. Battered women often make repeated attempts to leave violent relationships, but are prevented from doing so by increased violence and control tactics on the part of the abuser. Other factors which inhibit a victim's ability to leave include economic dependence, few viable options for housing and support, unhelpful responses from the criminal justice system or other agencies, social isolation, cultural or religious constraints, a commitment to the abuser and the relationship and fear of further violence. It has been estimated that the danger to a victim increases by 70% when she attempts to leave, as the abuser escalates his use of violence when he begins to lose control. Women report being verbally and/or physically abused for such things as: "the baby was crying," "the dishes were not done," "I didn't serve what he wanted for dinner," "I didn't want to have sex with him," the list is endless. Women have been dragged out of bed asleep and beaten, threatened or verbally abused. The idea that a woman could enjoy being punched, kicked, choked, called names or threatened is preposterous.
MYTH: The problem is not really women abuse, it is spouse abuse. Women are as violent as men.
FACT: In over 95% of domestic assaults, the man is the perpetrator. This fact makes many of us uncomfortable, but it is no less true because of this discomfort. To end domestic violence, we must scrutinize why it is usually men who are violent in partnerships. We must examine the historic and legal permission that men have been given to be violent in general, and to be violent towards their wives and children especially. There are rare cases where a woman batters a man. Domestic abuse does occur in lesbian and gay relationships. Survivors of abuse in such relationships should hear that even though their situation is rare, it does not make it less serious.
MYTH: Alcohol and drug abuse causes domestic violence.
FACT: Although there is a high correlation between alcohol, or other substance abuse, and battering, it is not a causal relationship. Batterers use drinking as one of many excuses for their violence and as a way to place the responsibility for their violence elsewhere. Stopping the abusers' drinking will not stop the violence. Both battering and substance abuse need to be addressed separately, as overlapping yet independent problems.
MYTH: Domestic violence is usually a one time, isolated occurrence.
FACT: Battering is a pattern of coercion and control that one person exerts over another. Battering is not just one physical attack. It includes the repeated use of a number of tactics, including intimidation, threats, economic deprivation, isolation and psychological and sexual abuse. Physical violence is just one of these tactics. The various forms of abuse utilized by batterers help to maintain power and control over their spouses and partners.
MYTH: The community places responsibility where it belongs – on the criminal.
FACT: Most people blame the victim of abuse for the crime, some without realizing it. They expect the victim/survivor to stop the violence, and repeatedly analyze her/his
motivations for not leaving, rather than scrutinizing why the abusive partner keeps beating their partner, and why the community allows it.
MYTH: Stress causes domestic violence.
FACT: Many people who are under stress do not assault their partners. Assailants who are stressed at work do not attack their co-workers or bosses.
MYTH: People who batter do so because they cannot control themselves or have "poor impulse control."
FACT: People who are abusive are usually not violent towards anyone but their wives/partners or their children. They can control themselves sufficiently to pick a safe target.
Abusers often beat their partners in parts of their bodies where bruises will not show. Statistics show that 60% of battered women were beaten while they were pregnant, often in the stomach. Many assaults last for hours. Many are planned.
MYTH: Men who batter are often good fathers and should have joint custody of their children if the couple separates.
FACT: Studies have found that men who batter their wives also abuse their children in 70% of cases. Even when children are not directly abused, they suffer as a result of witnessing one parent assault another. Batterers often display an increased interest in their children at the time of separation, as a means of maintaining contact with, and thus control over, their partners.
MYTH: When there is violence in the family, all members of the family are participating in the dynamic, and therefore, all must change for the violence to stop.
FACT: Only the batterer has the ability to stop the violence. Battering is a behavioral choice for which the batterer must be held accountable. Many battered women make
numerous attempts to change their behavior in the hope that this will stop the abuse. This does not work. Changes in family members' behavior will not cause the batterer to be non-violent.
MYTH: Men have a right to discipline their partners for misbehaving. Battering is not a crime.
FACT: While our society derives from a patriarchal legal system that afforded men the right to physically chastise their wives and children, we do not live under such a system now. Women and children are no longer considered the property of men, and domestic violence is a crime in every state in the country.