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Dating Violence

How can I tell if my partner is abusive?
Who can I talk to about this?

Controlling, abusive, violent behavior can occur in dating relationships as well as marriage. It happens in heterosexual or same-sex relationships. It happens to teens, young adults and retirees. Dating violence can occur on the very first date or after a year or two (or more) of dating. No matter when it happens or to whom, dating violence is wrong. You have the right to live a violence-free life.


What is dating violence?


Dating violence can involve verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. It's a pattern of abusive behaviors that occur over a period of time. There's no excuse for dating violence.


Sometimes it's hard to see what's happening in your own relationship. It's hard to separate the love you have for your partner from the abuse. Below you'll see a list of different types of abuse. Can you see this happening in your relationship?


Coercion and Threats


Does your partner:

  • Threaten to harm you or your friends and family?

  • Threaten to commit suicide whenever you try to leave?

  • Threaten to call Child Protective Services?

  • Coerce you to drop charges?

  • Tell you not to call the police?

  • Coerce you to commit crimes?

  • Threaten to out you if you haven't told family or friends about your sexual orientation?

  • Threaten to out you if you haven't told family or friends about your gender identity?




Does your partner:

  • Terrify you by smashing or destroying your property?

  • Abuse pets or children?

  • "Show off" weapons in a way that makes you afraid?


Emotional Abuse


Does your partner:

  • Put you down?

  • Call you names and make you feel bad about yourself?

  • Make you think you're crazy?

  • Play mind games with you?

  • Humiliate you or make you feel guilty for things that aren't your fault?

  • Make fun of your sexuality or sexual orientation or your gender identity?


Economic Abuse


Does your partner:

  • Prevent you from getting or keeping a job?

  • Force you to ask for money?

  • Take your money?

  • Force you to pay for everything?


Rigid Gender Roles


Does your partner:

  • Make all the big decisions?

  • Force you to act a certain way based on your gender, your gender identity, or your sexual orientation?

  • Define all the rules?

  • Treat you like a servant?




Does your partner:

  • Take away birth control or condoms?

  • Use your children to control you?

  • Threaten to steal or take the children away?

  • Make fun of you if you can't or don't want children?


Minimizing, Denying, and Blaming


Does your partner:

  • Make light of the abuse?

  • Place the blame on you for the abuse?

  • Deny the abuse or pretend that they weren't the one who hit you?

  • Mock you when you confront them about the abuse?




Does your partner:

  • Control what you do, who you see and talk to, what you read, or where you go?

  • Use jealousy as an excuse for their abuse?

  • Force you to stay home by taking your car or slashing your tires?

  • Coerce you to stay with them because they threaten to tell people about your sexual orientation?

  • Excuse their control by saying it's for your own good?




Does your partner:

  • Hold you down?

  • Strangle or choke you?

  • Hit you with their hands or with objects?

  • Throw things at you?

  • Block you from entering or leaving a room?

  • Kick you?




Does your partner:

  • Force you to have sex when you don't want to?

  • Coerce you into doing sexual acts you aren't comfortable with or don't want to do?

  • Expect sex as payment for a date?

  • Force you to drink alcohol or take drugs as a way of "loosening you up?"

  • Have sex with you while you're sleeping, high, or drunk?


If you see these behaviors in your relationship, you can call our hotline at 866-95-DOVES (36837) 24-hours a day, 7 days a week to speak with someone who understands. It's also important to think of your safety. An advocate can help you make a safety plan. For more information about safety planning, please click here.


How can I tell if my partner is abusive?


When you start a relationship, there isn't any way to know ahead of time whether or not someone is an abuser. There are some red flags you can look out for though:


Extreme Jealousy


You may feel flattered by the attention at first, but an abuser uses jealousy as an excuse to question: who you're with, why you're with them, where you are constantly, etc ...




Abusers look at their partners as possessions. They feel like they own you.


Controlling Attitude


Abuse is about power and control. If someone wants to tell you what to do, how to act, what to say, etc ... that person likes control. It's a danger sign.


Lies and Broken Promises


Abusers break promises and lie as part of their attempt to control your life. For example, an abuser might call you, promising to take you to dinner. You cancel your other plans and wait, but your partner never shows up. The abuser has broken a promise and has effectively controlled you by manipulating you into staying home waiting when you could have gone out.


Extreme Mood Changes


This is another tactic of control. The abuser jumps wildly from happiness to sadness, love to hate, and you're left wondering what you'll be faced with next. These extreme mood changes may sometimes be related to a mental illness but are also a way for them to manipulate you.


Quick Emotional Involvement


Beware of statements like these, especially in the first few hours or days of a new relationship:

"No one has ever made me feel this way."

"I've never met anyone I could trust to tell my secrets to."

"You're the only one who understands me."

"I love you."

It's a romantic notion that someone can see us and fall instantly in love. Abusers know this and use it to pull you into a serious relationship as quickly as possible. The more emotionally invested you are in a relationship, the harder it is to leave. You don't have to discount someone's declaration of love early in the relationship. Just remember, if it's true love, then they'll wait until you feel the same, without pressuring you to commit before you're ready.


Blaming Others and Not Accepting Responsibility


Abusers don't take responsibility for the troubles in their lives. They'll blame someone else: their family, friends, exes, partners, their boss, etc ... If they lose their job, it won't be their fault but another employee or their boss or a customer. If they are addicted to drugs or gambling, it will be because their father hit them or their mother hated them. Bad things may have truly happened to them, but most people don't use their tragedies to hurt or control others. Most people own their mistakes: abusers rarely will unless it benefits them to do so.




Abusers usually minimize any violence or abuse they commit. If they hit you and you confront them, they may deny it or tell you that it wasn't as bad as you're making it out to be.


Unrealistic Expectations


Beware of a new date who puts you on a pedestal. You may hear things like:

"You're the perfect person for me."

"You make my life complete."

"I don't know how I ever lived without you."

These may be warning signs that your new partner has unrealistic expectations of you or your future together. You can't hope to live up to their idealized version of you and when you start disappointing them, they may get angry.


Later, this same partner may expect you to:

Do all the work at home

Pay for all your dates

Make them happy emotionally, sexually, and Physically without any effort on their part to make you happy

You will see that they have rigid ideas and rules you must follow to please them.


Disregard for the Feelings or Emotions of Others


Abusers are at the center of their own world and everyone else revolves around them, waiting to be used or discarded at a whim. Once you enter that circle around an abuser, you are their possession and are subject to their desires. If the person you're dating dismisses your feelings or makes you feel like your emotions are stupid or unimportant, that's a danger sign.


Who can I talk to about this?


Over time, you may find that you've been distanced from friends, family, and the other people in your life. Isolation plays a very important role in abusive relationships because it allows abusers to have additional control over their partners and limits access from people who want to end the abuse. By limiting your social and support systems, abusers can ensure that you'll have few (if any) resources to count on should you leave.


Everyone handles abusive relationships in their own way. Know that you don't have to endure it alone. The DOVES Program is available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. Call to speak with someone who understands. 

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