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Dating Violence

Dating violence is an intentional act of violence (whether physical, sexual or emotional) by one partner in a dating relationship. It is an abuse of power where one person tries to take control over another person. Victims of dating violence may experience one incident of dating violence or it could be an ongoing pattern of several different types of incidents. It can occur in any type of relationship, regardless of a person's sexual orientation, age or gender and both males and females can experience dating violence.

The use of technology in dating violence is very common and can be a component of any type of dating violence. It can include excessive texting, unwanted posts on social networking websites, demanding to know their partner's password, etc.

Types of Abuse

Dating violence can occur in various ways:

Type of Abuse Definition Examples
Emotional Abuse Emotional abuse is when one partner uses words or actions to control, frighten or isolate another or take away their self-respect. Emotional abuse is sometimes called psychological abuse. Put-downs, intimidation, bullying, controlling what a person wears or who they see, threats, isolation, ignoring, rejection, etc.
(Department of Justice)
Emotional Neglect Emotional neglect is when an individual is not provided with the basic emotional or psychological needs for his/her well-being. Lack of acknowledgement, love, safety and self-worth.
Physical Abuse Physical abuse is any non-accidental act that results in trauma or physical injury without consent. It also constitutes assault. Kicking, hitting, pushing, shaking, burning, etc.
Sexual Abuse Sexual abuse is when one person forces another to engage in a sexual activity or sexual touching. It is abuse when there is one person in a dating relationship who does not consent, or is too young to consent (Department of Justice). Inappropriate or unwanted touching, sexual assault, forcing someone to engage in sexual intercourse, forcing someone to watch sexual acts, movies or read pornographic material.
(Kids Help Phone)
Harassment/ Criminal Harassment Harassment is when someone does something repeatedly over time that causes the victim to fear for their safety. No physical injury needs to occur for something to be considered harassment. Harassment can be sexual and/or non sexual. Stalking, making unwanted sexual comments or sexual suggestions, persistent phone calls, sending many unwanted text messages or text messages with unwanted content, etc. (Kids Help Phone)

Cycle of Violence

As with intimate partner violence, dating violence often follows a continuous cycle and rarely improves without someone on the outside intervening.

  • At first, everything seems normal, even perfect. The couple gets along really well and they enjoy each other's company.
  • Then, there are stressors that begin putting pressure on the relationship (e.g. academic issues, high athletic expectations). One partner might feel the need to walk on egg shells around the other person and do everything in their power to make him or her happy.
  • Afterwards, the tension finally boils over and tempers flare. Physical, emotional and sexual violence, humiliation or harassment can occur.
  • Following the violence, the abusive individual will rationalize and justify their behaviour by blaming others or other issues going on in their lives that may cause them stress. They may apologize for their actions and promise that it will never happen again. Before long, the cycle usually restarts.

(Sources: Department of Justice – Abuse is Wrong, Manitoba Justice – Cycle of Violence)

Why Do People Stay in Abusive Relationships?

  • The relationship gives them a sense of belonging that they don't have elsewhere.
  • It might be his or her first romantic relationship and they want it to last as long as possible.
  • They might be afraid of what others will think if the relationship ends.
  • They might blame themselves for problems in the relationship and feel responsible for fixing them – this is often reinforced by the abusive partner who blames them for everything that is wrong in the relationship.
  • They may think that jealousy and possessiveness are signs of real love and concern, rather than a way to control them.
  • The abusive partner may apologize and regret their behaviour, which leads to hope that things will work out.
  • They may think they can help or change their partner.
  • The abusive partner might threaten to hurt them, their family, their friends or their pet if they leave.
  • They might not want their parents to say, "I told you so." This is especially true if the parents did not like the boyfriend/girlfriend right from the start.

Warning Signs

A relationship may be abusive if one partner:

  • Has unexplained bruises or questionable explanations for injuries;
  • Engages in risk-taking behaviours (doing drugs/drinking alcohol, etc.)
  • Withdraws from their friends and family;
  • Experiences a drop in school performance;
  • Acts differently when their partner is around (e.g. not speaking up);
  • Seems to be controlled by their partner and is unable to make decisions by themselves;
  • Is humiliated or criticized by their partner in front of others;
  • Tries to change the subject if they are questioned about their partner's behaviour;
  • Receives constant text messages from their partner demanding to know where they are and who they are with;
  • Is forced to give their partner the passwords to their social networking accounts. (Canadian Red Cross)

Impacts

Health Impacts

There are short and long term impacts of dating violence. While the effects vary from person to person, the consequences may include issues such as:

  • Damage to a person's self-esteem, confidence or sense of security;
  • Damage to his or her development and ability to function;
  • Physical injury;
  • Depression;
  • Anxiety;
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder;
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or HIV/AIDS; or
  • Even death in more extreme cases.

Experiencing violence in relationships during the teenage years can also lead to experiences of further violence in their adult life; some reports suggest that teenaged victims may be up to 3 times more likely to be victimized in their adult lives. (End Violence Against Women and Girls)

Legal Impacts

Not all forms of emotional abuse are crimes and there is no specific Criminal Code offence called "dating violence". However, most acts of dating violence, including, assault, sexual assault, uttering threats, making indecent and harassing phone calls and intimidation are offences under the Criminal Code.

What You Can Do

Youth

If you are a victim of dating violence…

  • If you want to end the relationship and you fear for your safety, call 9-1-1 or your local police department immediately.
  • Know that it is not your fault and that you are not alone. No one deserves to be abused.
  • Confide in someone you trust, like a friend, your parents, a guidance counsellor or a teacher.
  • You may also wish to seek support by calling or emailing the Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868), a completely free and confidential resource for youth.

Adults

If you suspect dating violence or know someone who is a victim

  • Call 9-1-1 or the local police department, if you think their life may be in danger;
  • Don't ignore the signs. Talk to them and make sure they know you can be trusted and that you are there to help and support them;
  • Encourage them to get help. If the person is reluctant in getting help, you can't force them; but you can provide some information or resources like Kids Help Phone or the resources found on the other Resource Page. (RCMP)