- Nearly 1 in 3 (32%) college students report dating violence by a previous partner, and 21% report violence by a current partner. C. Sellers and M. Bromley, “Violent Behavior in College Student Dating Relationships,” Journal of Contemporary Justice, (1996).
Dating abuse takes many forms. It is defined as a pattern of physically, sexually, verbally and/or emotionally abusive behavior or privacy intrusions in a dating relationship. It ranges from punching, slapping, pushing and grabbing to rape and murder; from threats of violence, verbal attacks and other forms of intimidation to extreme jealousy, possessiveness and controlling behavior.
Dating abuse is designed to be isolating and controlling, taking different forms at different times and limited only by the energy, imagination and desperation of the abuser.
In the online environment, it can be anonymous, with the abusers hiding behind fake, stolen or impersonated accounts and screen names. It can involve spying and digital tracking of communications and online activities. It can mean using technology (cell phones, social networking sites, etc.) to stay in constant contact.
No matter what form abuse takes, the effect on victims is that no place feels private. No place feels safe.
Dating and domestic abuse are typically not one-time incidents, but a pattern of abusive behaviors over time that cause fear and/or harm. As the pattern continues, the abuser uses emotional manipulation and/or physical domination to gain control and power over his or her partner.
Dating abuse does not discriminate. It affects people of all races, religions, ages, sexual orientations, genders and cultures. It affects people regardless of how much money they have or what neighborhood they live in. While the vast majority of abusers are male and most targets (also known as victims or survivors) are female, females can also be abusers and males can be targets of dating abuse.
Adapted from the “Love is Not Abuse” curriculum.