Defining Dating Violence

Purple Ribbon for Domestic and Dating Violence Awareness

Dating violence is a pattern of assaultive and controlling behaviors that one person uses against another in order to gain or maintain power and control in the relationship. The abuser intentionally behaves in ways that cause fear, degradation and humiliation to control the other person. Forms of abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional and psychological.

Victims and abusers come from all social and economic backgrounds, faith communities, and racial and ethnic backgrounds. Abuse also occurs in same-sex relationships. Both females and males can be victims of dating violence, but numerous studies reveal the reality that the majority of victims are females (usually more than 95 percent). Throughout this Web site, victims are often referred to as females and abusers as male. That reference does not change the fact that every survivor -- male or female -- deserves support, options, resources and safety.

Abusers attempt to control their partners in a variety of ways. The following is a list of common controlling behaviors:

Isolation: Trying to cut off the victim's relationship with family and friends; using jealousy to justify behavior.

Emotional: Humiliating the victim in front of friends or making the victim feel guilty when she confronts the abuser about the abuse.

Intimidation: Making the victim fearful by using threatening behavior, abuse of animals, verbal aggression or destruction of property.

Coercion: Threatening to find someone else if the dating partner doesn't comply with the abuser's wishes or demands. Threats to harm self or others if the dating partner leaves.

Physical: Using or threatening to use physically assaultive behaviors such as hitting, shoving, grabbing, slapping, beating, kicking, etc.

Sexual: Touching or forcing the victim to engage in unwanted sexual activity.

At the beginning stages of the dating relationship, these behaviors may not be apparent or the use of them is so subtle that they may be mistaken for the abuser's caring and concern. For example, the abuser may suggest that the couple spend all their time together because when they are apart, they will miss each other. If the victim spends time with other friends, the abuser may appear to be sad or disappointed. As the relationship becomes more involved, the abuser may gradually escalate the use of these behaviors to include severe jealousy, which is not a sign of love as many in our society believe.