Young People Beware of Dating Abuse

by Samantha De Bono

Just because you aren’t married or living with someone doesn’t mean you can’t be in an abusive relationship.  Instead of calling it Domestic Abuse, let’s call it Dating Abuse.  You don’t live together, you aren’t married but you are a ‘seeing’ each other as boyfriend and girlfriend, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have been dating for ages, it can be a new relationship too.

Ok, so let’s be clear on what Dating Abuse is then.  It’s controlling behaviour that someone uses against a girlfriend or boyfriend, it may be emotional (eg. isolation from family & friends, accusations that you fancy someone else or that you’re cheating, threats that they’ll kill themselves if you don’t comply) verbal (eg. name calling, put downs, humiliating you in front of others or in private) psychological (eg. always blaming you for how they feel, never taking responsibility for themselves, punching walls or smashing things in an argument, driving dangerously when you are in the car, making you feel scared) physical (eg. pushing you, pulling your hair, biting you, slapping, punching, kicking you) and sexual abuse (eg. expecting you to do things you don’t want to do, raping you, having sex with you whilst you’re asleep, asking you to have sex with his friends, berating you during sex).

The examples I’ve given above are just some of the more common aspects of abuse, but a good guide is how you feel.  If you feel uncomfortable, compromised or uneasy, go with that feeling.  Don’t second guess yourself, trust your instincts.  If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

The problem with any sort of abuse is that the victim tends to believe what the abuser says and the most common thing an abuser says is “YOU MAKE ME DO THIS…” but the truth is you don’t!  They have a choice, the choice they have made is to behave the way they do.  That is not down to you.

Don’t blame yourself.  Dating abuse can happen to anyone:

1 in 3 adolescents — boys and girls — experience some form of abuse in a dating relationship.
1 in 3 teens report knowing someone who has been physically hurt by a partner.
1 in 3 teens have been text messaged 10–30 times an hour by a partner to find out where they are, who they are with, or what they are doing.

Remember, you have the right to be treated with respect. Nobody has the right to make you feel bad about yourself.

Look for early warning signs when dating.  If the person you are dating starts to behave in a way that makes you feel uncertain, bad about yourself, insecure, humiliated, even a little frightened, trust yourself.  If they can behave that way early on in the relationship, the chances are it’s not going to get better!

Do you know someone who’s boyfriend or girlfriend:

    Controls where they go, what they wear, or what they do?
    Tries to stop her/him from seeing or talking to family or friends?
    Forces her/him to do something sexual when she/he doesn’t want to?
    Calls her/him derogatory names, puts her/him down or criticises her/him?
    Threatens or scares her/him?
    Hits, slaps, pushes or kicks her/him?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, that person is experiencing abuse and their physical and mental health & safety may well be at risk.

These are your dating rights and responsibilities.

You have the right …

    To be treated with respect.
    To be in a healthy relationship.
    To not be abused — physically, sexually, psychologically or emotionally.
    To feel safe in relationships.
    To have other friends of the opposite sex.
    To have time apart to enjoy other interests.
    To wear what you like to wear.
    To see friends and family alone as well as together.
    To leave a relationship at any time.

You have the responsibility …

    To determine your limits and values.
    To accept and respect your partner’s differences.
    To refuse to abuse — physically, sexually, psychologically or emotionally.
    To respect your boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s limits, values, feelings and beliefs.
    To not exert power or control in a relationship.
    To ask for help from friends, family and trusted adults.

If any of the above impacts you in any way at all and you think it would be useful to have talks given in Secondary schools about abusive relationships, how to spot them early, how to define them, understanding the dynamics of them and the psychology behind why we stay in them, please send me an email with your comments This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..