What Is Dating Abuse?

Alicia Sparks

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.

Women who suffer from dating abuse may become depressed.
Women who suffer from dating abuse may become depressed.

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.

Dating abuse might escalate into physical violence.
Dating abuse might escalate into physical violence.

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.

Being overly flirtatious can cause mixed signals, which might lead to dating abuse.
Being overly flirtatious can cause mixed signals, which might lead to dating abuse.

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Discussion Comments


The Fiebert bibliography is a collection of close to three hundred independent studies and analyses which clearly show that partner violence is committed by both men and women in equal proportions. That is, women initiate violence or are the sole abusers in fully half of all cases.

Continuing to deny this reality and perpetuating the false narrative that men are the sole abusers is the height of irresponsibility. Do yourself as well as the rest of us a favor and actually do some research before you spout off half truths and biased misinformation.


Another article that is blatantly sexist in saying that it's only a girl who can be the abused and not the abuser. Have we gone back in time where instead of women demanding equality, it has become men?


The way this article was written is actually very offensive to me. I'm a guy who recently managed to get out of an abusive relationship, and she was the abuser. It fortunately never escalated to the physical stage, but psychological and emotional abuse were rampant on her end of the relationship.

So, way to be biased and propagate the stigma that men are always the abusers, and that women are always the victims.

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