Dating violence is an unbiased issue, meaning it can affect anyone at any time in life. Knowing the facts about the severity of this problem can help prevent the growth of dating violence.
What Is Dating Violence?
Loveisrespect.org defines dating abuse as a 'pattern of destructive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner.' Dating violence can consist of just one incident, but it usually consists of a series of abusive encounters that occur over a time. According to Safehorizon.org, dating violence can happen to any person no matter their age, gender, income level, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Other terms to describe dating violence include:
- Domestic violence
- Family violence
- Spousal abuse
- Relationship abuse
- Intimate partner abuse
Who Is Affected?
Dating violence occurs among people in romantic relationships from all walks of life. Although intimate partner violence has been widely considered an issue that victimizes women, recent research from DomesticViolenceStatistics.org indicates that dating violence is a problem for men as well. Victims, perpetrators, witnesses, and communities can be greatly impacted by dating violence.
Loveisrespect.org reports that females between ages 16-24 have the highest rates of dating violence. In addition, one in six women attending college has been sexually abused by a dating partner. Women may report dating violence more than men, and most incidents of violence are not reported, according to Safehorizon.org, so it is likely that these numbers are actually higher.
Dosomething.org supports this information in stating that domestic violence is the top cause of injury to women in the United States. While dating abuse affects many people, 85 percent of victims are women. Women may be more vulnerable to abuse due to past victimization and a perceived deficit in strength.
Dating violence against men may seem like a smaller issue than violence against women, but the Mayo Clinic suggests this is because men are less likely to report abuse. Men may be concerned about being made fun of for perceived deficits in masculinity and strength when reporting domestic violence. There is also a shortage of resources specifically aimed at helping men who are victims of dating abuse.
Recent research showcases the prevalence of dating violence against men. The 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NIPSVS, page 2) suggests that about one in seven men has been the victim of severe physical abuse from a dating partner. Using random phone surveys to people over the age of 18, the NIPSV was able to gather information from more than 15,000 people about experiences with dating violence.
As elder abuse becomes more visible to the public, so is the prevalence of intimate partner violence in this population. The Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DACDV) reports that one in ten women over 50 suffers some form of abuse from a romantic partner.
Although it appears this problem is growing in the elderly populations, it may be that it is only now becoming apparent. It is likely that domestic violence for this age group is the result of a pattern that has continued throughout life. The National Center on Elder Abuse suggests that the values of this generation may make domestic violence difficult to see. People in this age group have typically been raised to keep private matters private. It is also possible that the elderly in relationships where abuse occurs have tried to get help at some point in the past only to be unsuccessful.
People With Disabilities
Men and women with disabilities are also at risk of being victimized in dating relationships. Barrier Free Living shares that 80 percent of women with disabilities have been sexually assaulted. While the perpetrators of these assaults are not always dating partners, 98 percent of the time they are people in caregiving positions to their victims.
While all women are at high risk of being victimized by a dating partner, the DACDV reports that women with disabilities are at a great risk. Abusers can use many controlling tactics to keep women with disabilities from leaving the relationship or seeking help.
Teens and Children
One in every three teens throughout the United States experiences some form of abuse from a dating partner, says Loveisrespect.org. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that approximately 20 percent of female and 13 percent of male, high school students say they have been physically or sexually abused in a dating relationship. This adds up to around 1.5 million high school students being physically abused by a dating partner. Dating violence awareness focuses on this population in an effort to stop the problem from escalating as teens become adults.
The 2010 NIPSVS found that around 25 percent of women and just over 10 percent of men who ever experienced a physical form of violence by an intimate partner had experienced a form a dating violence for the first time between the ages of 11-17. In 2013, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed this information to have remained largely true as 10 percent of students in high school said they had been victims of physical or sexual abuse from a dating partner within the last year.
The Center for Disease Control notes that the consequences of experiencing dating violence during adolescence can include:
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Drug and alcohol use along with other risky behaviors
- Antisocial behavior
- Suicidal thoughts - according to Loveisrespect.org, half of all young people who have been victimized in dating situations attempt suicide.
The third leading cause of homelessness with families in the United States is domestic violence, according to Safehorizon.org. Whether victims of dating violence choose to reach out or not, community resources are utilized to deal with this issue on a regular basis. It has been estimated that services related to domestic violence issues cost over $37 billion per year. This includes lost work time as victims have to miss days, treatment for mental health issues and emotional support and work from the justice system.
Why Dating Violence Occurs
Dating violence often starts out as perceived innocent behavior like name-calling and turns into a pattern of unhealthy behaviors. The Human Response Network suggests that modeling from adults, peers, and media about what is acceptable in relationships begins in childhood. People who have problems communicating effectively, managing anger and jealousy, and don't respect others are at risk of engaging in abusive behaviors.
Children who are witnesses to domestic abuse are also at risk for serious problems throughout life. Dosomething.org reports that boys who have witnessed dating violence are twice as likely to abuse their own children or partners when they become adults. Furthermore, children who witness domestic violence are at risk for developmental problems, mental health issues, and low self-esteem according to the Mayo Clinic. Domestic violence issues need to be appropriately handled in childhood to help prevent future dating violence.
In a recent review of empirical evidence by Cathy Widom and Helen Wilson on the transmission of violence across generations, it was found that nearly 10 million children are witnesses to domestic violence between their caregivers. These children are then at risk of learning to model this behavior and receive messages that it is acceptable. Identifying unhealthy relationship patterns in your family can help to break this cycle.
How to Get Help
There are a wide variety of hotlines available for different populations as well as types of abuse.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides support, intervention services, and resources to victims of abuse. Advocates are available all day, every day at 1-800-799-7233.
- The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline provides information, resources, and a listening ear to youth and those who care about them. You can call 1-866-331-9474, text 'loveis' to 22522, or chat online with an advocate at any time on any day of the year.
- If you have been the victim of a sexual assault, you can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline by telephone, at 800-656-HOPE(4673) or online to find a service provider in your area who can help.
Love Shouldn't Hurt
Dating violence is a nationwide issue affecting people of all ages and walks of life. The next generation learns accepted behaviors from the last, creating a never-ending cycle. Loving relationships should never involve violence or abuse. By educating yourself on the facts of dating violence, you can help prevent the next generation from experiencing as much hurt as the last.