Dating violence is far too common. By some estimates, 33% of women and 25% of men have been assaulted by a dating partner or spouse. If you add in sexual assault and stalking, the numbers are even higher.
The perpetrators of these violent acts are solely responsible for the harm they cause, but the cycle of violence often follows a recognizable pattern. By learning to identify this pattern, you can avoid becoming another victim of dating violence.
What Is Dating Violence?
Dating violence includes any act of violence or intimidation committed against a dating partner. The criminal laws of many states punish dating violence as a form of domestic violence. Perpetrators of dating violence can face fines, incarceration, and domestic violence treatment just like other domestic abusers.
Dating violence is all about control. The violent partner uses abuse to dominate and control their partner and those close to them. To this end, the fear of violence is often just as effective as actual violence.
Dating violence takes three primary forms. If you observe indications of any of these forms of abuse in your relationship, you should consider getting out.
Physical abuse includes any kind of physical violence or restraint directed at you, your possessions, or the people close to you.
Some examples of physical abuse include:
- Grabbing or pushing
- Slapping, hitting, or choking
- Throwing things
- Abusing your pets or children
- Destroying or forcibly taking your property
- Locking you up against your will
- Hitting walls, doors, or vehicles
- Sexual assault
Physical abuse is the most obvious form of dating violence and also the most intimidating. You might feel scared to discuss incidents of violence with others, and this fear gives the abuser the control they seek.
Psychological and Emotional Abuse
Psychological and emotional abuse usually come in two forms.
First, the abuser uses threats against you and your loved ones to control you. They might threaten violence or use more nuanced tactics like:
- Public embarrassment and humiliation
- Withholding of money or other essentials
- Withholding of affection
Second, the abuser erodes your self-worth to make you dependent on them.
Examples of this type of emotional and psychological abuse include:
- Insulting you or putting you down
- Ignoring you
- Isolating you from your friends and family
- Gaslighting you, or making you mistrust your thoughts and feelings
- Threatening suicide
These types of abuse are more subtle and can be difficult to recognize. Again, the abuser uses your desire to please and fear of losing the relationship to manipulate you.
Financial abuse can cover a range of behaviors, including:
- Stealing from you
- Using your resources or shared resources for themselves
- Forcing you to stop working
The abuser’s goal is to ensure that you have no resources to leave them or manage your behavior by forcing you to depend on them.
7 Warning Signs of Dating Violence
Abusers often follow a pattern within and across relationships. Some signs that can reveal someone’s tendency to fall into a cycle of dating violence include:
1. Emotional Immaturity
Most abusers need to control their partners because they fear loss. Someone who’s emotionally immature is more likely to resort to abusive behaviors to preserve their relationship instead of building a genuine emotional connection.
You can see examples of emotional immaturity if your dating partner:
- Throws tantrums or loses their temper easily
- Doesn’t take responsibility for their actions
- Blames you for things outside your control
- Holds grudges
Every relationship has conflicts. A mature partner will work with you to solve them instead of resorting to force and violence to get their way.
2. Violent Tendencies
Someone who glorifies violence or has perpetrated violence against others is more likely to use violence against you.
Watch for people who have:
- Gotten into fights
- Destroyed objects
- Purposefully injured or killed animals
These acts don’t necessarily brand a person as violent for life, but someone who boasts about or revels in their memories of them is likely incapable of seeing the error of their ways.
3. Escalating Arguments
If your dating partner expands or escalates disagreements instead of focusing on resolving them, they might resort to abusive tactics to reassert control.
Pay attention to conflicts that involve:
- Bringing up old disagreements
- Refusing to apologize or take responsibility for their part in a disagreement
- Insulting you
- Blaming you for the conflict or the argument
Dating violence frequently evolves out of escalating arguments.
4. Controlling Behavior
As mentioned, dating violence is an extreme form of control. Someone who exhibits controlling behaviors could turn to abuse when they feel their control slipping away.
Examples of controlling behaviors to watch for include:
- Demanding money, sex, or assistance from you
- Limiting your time with friends or family
- Forcing you to rely on them for money or transportation
If the abuser successfully forces you to depend on them, they feel they have total control over you and your relationship.
5. Excessive Jealousy
Jealousy in small amounts is normal. But if your relationship involves false accusations of cheating or elaborate measures to prevent you from cheating, like checking your phone or tracking your location, it may have already begun crossing over into abuse.
6. History of Bad Relationships
Be wary of people who always blame their former partners for their breakups. If your partner has a history of bad relationships and isn’t making an active effort to grow and become a better person, yours may be the next in the chain.
7. Refusal to End the Relationship
If you’ve spotted any of these warning signs and attempted to end things with your partner but they’ve prevented you from doing so in some way, you might have entered the cycle of dating violence. Some tactics they may use include:
- Threatening suicide to control you through guilt
- Stalking you
- Demeaning you or spreading rumors to prevent you from developing new relationships
- Threatening potential partners
These tactics are intended to rob you of your personal power, leaving you no choice but to return to the abuser.
Breaking the Cycle
In order to escape dating violence, you must first recognize the signs. Once you have, it becomes easier to avoid falling into the traps your partner sets to keep you in the relationship. If you need help getting out of an abusive relationship, you’ll find many organizations dedicated to aiding victims of domestic and dating violence online.