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What is dating violence?
Dating violence is when one person purposely hurts or scares someone they are dating. Dating violence happens to people of all races, cultures, incomes, and education levels. It can happen on a first date, or when you are deeply in love. It can happen whether you are young or old, and in heterosexual or same-sex relationships. Dating violence is always wrong, and you can get help.
Dating violence includes:
- Physical abuse like hitting, shoving, kicking, biting, or throwing things
- Emotional abuse like yelling, name-calling, bullying, embarrassing, keeping you away from your friends, saying you deserve the abuse, or giving gifts to "make up" for the abuse. (Read more about emotional abuse.)
- Sexual abuse like forcing you to do something sexual (such as kissing or touching) or doing something sexual when you cannot agree to it (like when you are very drunk). (Read more about sexual attacks.)
Dating violence often starts with emotional abuse. You may think that behaviors like calling you names or insisting on seeing you all the time are a "normal" part of relationships. But they can lead to more serious kinds of abuse, like hitting, stalking, or preventing you from using birth control. Learn more about the warning signs of abuse and the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Dating violence can cause serious harm to your body and your emotions. If you are in an abusive relationship, get help.
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Teen dating violence
In the United States, teens and young women experience the highest rates of relationship violence. In fact, 1 in 10 female high-schoolers say they have been physically abused by a dating partner in the past year. Learn more about leaving an abusive dating relationship.
If you haven't dated much, it can be hard to know when a relationship is unhealthy. Some signs of teen dating abuse include:
It is never okay for someone to hit you or be cruel to you. You may think alcohol or drugs make a partner abusive. Those things may increase the chances of abuse, but they never make it right.
You also may think it is your fault that your partner has hurt you. But you don't control how your partner acts, and you can't make someone mistreat you.
Keep in mind that if you sometimes hit your partner first, you can get help learning how to stop. Talk to a mental health professional, like a school counselor, or a doctor or nurse.
- Constantly texting or sending instant messages (IMs) to monitor you
- Insisting on getting serious very quickly
- Acting very jealous or bossy
- Pressuring you to do sexual things
- Posting sexual photos of you online without permission
- Threatening to hurt you or themselves if you break up
- Blaming you for the abuse
Teenage girls in physically abusive relationships are much more likely than other girls to become pregnant. Abuse can get worse during pregnancy, and it can harm the baby growing inside you. Never get pregnant hoping that it will stop the abuse. You can ask your doctor about types of birth control that your partner doesn't have to know you are using.
If you are under 18, your partner could get arrested for having sex with you, even if you agreed to have sex. Laws covering this are different in each state. You can learn more about the law in your state.
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Leaving an abusive dating relationship
If you think you are in an abusive relationship, learn more about getting help. See a doctor or nurse to take care of any physical problems. And reach out for support for your emotional pain. Friends, family, and mental health professionals all can help. If you're in immediate danger, dial 911.
If you are thinking about ending an abusive dating relationship, keep some tips in mind:
- Create a safety plan, like where you can go if you are in danger.
- Make sure you have a working cellphone handy in case you need to call for help.
- Create a secret code with people you trust. That way, if you are with your partner, you can get help without having to say you need help.
- If you're breaking up with someone you see at your high school or college, you can get help from a guidance counselor, advisor, teacher, school nurse, dean's office, or principal. You also might be able to change your class schedules or even transfer to another school.
- If you have a job, talk to someone you trust at work. Your human resources department or employee assistance program (EAP) may be able to help.
- Try to avoid walking or riding alone.
- Be smart about technology. Don't share your passwords. Don't post your schedule on Facebook, and keep your settings private.
If you are ending a long-term or live-in dating relationship, you may want to read our section on domestic and intimate partner violence.
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Staying safe when meeting someone new
If you are meeting someone you don't know or don't know well, you can take steps to stay safe. Try to:
- Meet your date in a public place
- Tell a friend or family member your date's name and where you are going
- Avoid parties where a lot of alcohol may be served
- Make sure you have a way to get home if you need to leave
- Have a cellphone handy in case you need to call for help
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Avoiding date rape drugs
Date rape drugs are drugs that are sometimes put into a drink to prevent a person from being able to fight back during a rape. These drugs have no color, taste, or smell, so you would not know if someone put them in your drink. They also make it hard to remember what happened while you were under their influence.
If you go to a club, bar, or party, here are some steps to take to avoid date rape drugs:
- Don't accept drinks from other people.
- Keep your drink with you at all times, even when you go to the bathroom.
- Don't drink from punch bowls or other open containers.
- If you lose track of your drink, dump it out.
You can read answers to frequently asked questions about date rape drugs. And keep in mind that drinking a lot of alcohol can make it hard to fight off an attacker, too.
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More information on Dating violence
Explore other publications and websites
- Abuse (Copyright © Nemour's Foundation) - This publication for teens defines types of abuse and describes the effects of abuse. It gives advice on what to do and where to get help.
- Breaking Up (Copyright © National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline) - This website gives tips on how to end an unhealthy relationship safely and how to prepare for the difficult feelings afterward.
- Dater's Bill of Rights (Copyright © National Crime Prevention Council) - This tip sheet can help you remember that you can make your own decisions in dating situations.
- Dating and Domestic Violence (Copyright © Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) - This fact sheet defines domestic violence and other commonly used terms for abuse. It provides an outline of reasons why victims stay in a harmful relationship and a checklist of behavioral signs of abuse.
- Dating Violence (Copyright © National Center for Victims of Crime) - This fact sheet gives signs of physical, emotional, and sexual violence. It also talks about how to help yourself and others.
- GirlsHealth.gov: Relationships - The girlshealth.gov section on relationships helps adolescent girls learn about the unique health and social issues they will deal with during their teen years. It provides information, resources, and links to help teens learn more about healthy relationships.
- Is it Abuse? Dating Violence (Copyright © National Center for Victims of Crime) - This brochure educates young adults on how to identify violence and abuse in relationships and ways to get help.
- Runaway & Homeless Youth and Relationship Violence Toolkit - Growing up can be difficult for youth. This publication gives information on how you can talk about relationship violence and provides tips on how to build a better bond with runaway and homeless youth.
- Teen Dating Violence Fact Sheet (Copyright © National Center for Victims of Crime) - This fact sheet gives a quick overview of statistics on teen dating violence, laws against dating violence, and how to get help.
- Understanding Teen Dating Violence - This fact sheet gives information on teen dating violence as well as risk factors, statistics, and ways to prevent teen dating violence.
- Violence Prevention - This website provides information on the impact of violence, risk factors for violence, and effective prevention tips. It also addresses intimate partner, sexual, and youth violence.
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Content last updated: May 18, 2011.
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