The Truth About Dating Violence

What Is the Link Between Domestic Violence and Dating Violence?

Domestic violence does not always begin once a couple gets married. Patterns of abuse may be established long before, during the dating years. The dynamics of abusive relationships, the same in both adult and teenage relationships, include the need of one partner to exercise power and control over the other. To accomplish this end, the abuser uses physical, emotional, verbal, and/or sexual abuse.

As with domestic violence, dating violence knows no socio-economic, religious, racial, or cultural barriers. Victims of dating violence also get caught in the "cycle of violence." The cycle begins with growing tension (including verbal and emotional harassment) that leads to violence followed by a honeymoon period during which the abuser apologizes and promises never to be abusive again. Educating teens about dating violence might not only deter them from being involved in a violent relationship during their teenage years but might also prevent them from becoming victims of domestic violence during their adulthood.

What is Dating Violence?
Dating violence is abuse within a dating relationship. Abuse isn't just physical. The abuse can be emotional, verbal, and sexual as well. It can include yelling, threatening, name-calling, saying "I'll kill myself if you leave me," isolation, intimidation, obsessive phone calling, and extreme possessiveness. Emotional and psychological abuse are equally as damaging as physical abuse and should not be taken lightly. Dating violence affects one out of eight teen couples and can occur at any time in the relationship. Even one act of violence is unacceptable. It is a clear warning sign of future violence that should be taken seriously.

Why Does it Happen?
We live in a violent society and, consequently, have become desensitized to violence. At a time when many youths are insecure and uncertain about how to act, the domination and violence they see between men and women on television or in the movies may seem acceptable. As such, teenagers faced with the peer pressure of belonging to a group and being involved in a dating relationship, are often willing to tolerate unacceptable behavior. Furthermore, teenage girls, often inexperienced with dating, do not have the knowledge of what is appropriate behavior from the boys they date. They are confused between: love and commitment vs. jealousy and possessiveness, negotiation of differences vs. intimidation and control, traditional gender roles vs. the qualities of the individual, and legitimate expressions of anger vs. violence. They may see jealousy and violence as signs of affection and caring. Many young women are insecure and stay in abusive dating relationships out of fear that they will never find another boyfriend.

Why Does A Young Woman Stay?

  • She believes it is her fault.
  • She is afraid of what he may do if she leaves him.
  • She is embarrassed to tell other people.
  • She believes that she can handle the situation herself.
  • She does not know how to get out of the relationship or what her resources are.
  • She does not want to worry her parents.
  • She is afraid of what her parents might do if they learned of the abuse.
  • She feels pressure from his or her friends to stay in the relationship.
  • She is afraid of being alone and of being ostracized.
  • She is afraid he might hurt himself, hurt her, or her family.
  • She loves him.
  • She believes that he will change.

Sources: Jewish Women International's Resource Guide for Rabbis on Domestic Violence, National Crime Prevention Council, and New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women's Project RAP