Dating abuse is any kind of abuse that takes place between two people who are currently dating or have dated in the past. Dating violence, as it is also called, can take place during both a casual dating situation and a serious, committed relationship. Typically, the purpose of any kind of dating violence is to establish a presence of power and control for one person in the relationship. Abusers achieve this power and control by means of physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and verbal abuse. Once she suspects the warning signs of dating abuse, the abused party should remove herself from the relationship and seek help.
When they think of abusive situations, people often think of physical abuse. Indeed, dating abuse can include physically abusive situations. Examples of physical abuse include pushing, biting, punching, slapping, or otherwise hitting a person. Physical abuse also includes sexual abuse. Many dating abuse situations include some sort or sexual assault that can include everything from forcing a sexual encounter, such as date rape, to introducing a sexual element against the abused party’s will.
Other kinds of less obvious abuses often involved in dating abuse situations include emotional abuse, psychological abuse, and verbal abuse. Abusers often use emotional blackmail or psychological manipulation to control the abused parties. Even though the signs of emotional and psychological abuse aren’t as immediately visible as the signs of physical abuse, these kinds of abuse can be just as serious. Sometimes, these less obvious signs of dating violence are used as means to another more physically violent end. For example, an abuser might use physiological manipulation to keep his victim from leaving, thus keeping her available for physical and sexual abuse.
Situations involving dating abuse can emit different warning signs for the various parties involved. For example, outsiders might see signs of physical damage, or notice drastic changes in the mood and behavior of the abused party. They might even witness a bizarre, controlling, or violent behavior from the abuser toward the abused. The person being abused might become aware of warning signs such as the introduction of verbal abuse, physical violence against nearby inanimate objects, jealousy, extreme neediness, and unrealistic expectations. Abusers tend to rush into relationships, blame others for their problems and feelings, and isolate themselves and their partners.
Anyone who suspects she is a victim of dating abuse should immediately seek help. She should first separate herself from the abuser, and then find resources for her safety and health. Depending on the situation, she might notify responsible adults such as parents or school officials, or she might contact law enforcement. If the abused party feels she has no one to turn to or is afraid to contact the police, she can look for hot lines, support groups, or counseling centers in her area. Generally, these people are trained to help the abused party take each step necessary to break and recover from the dating violence cycle.