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Dating abuse or dating violence is defined as the perpetration or threat of an act of violence by at least one member of an unmarried couple on the other member within the context of dating or courtship. It is also when one partner tries to maintain power and control over the other through abuse/violence. This abuse/violence encompasses all forms: sexual assault, sexual harassment, threats, physical violence, verbal, mental, or emotional abuse, social sabotage, and stalking.

Dating violence crosses all racial, age, economic and social lines. The Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness describes dating abuse as a "pattern of abusive and coercive behaviors used to maintain power and control over a former or current intimate partner."[1] The Family & Community Development support group at eCitizen in Singapore has described what it calls tell-tale signs of an abusive relationship.

These can include psychological abuse, emotional blackmail, sexual abuse, physical abuse and psychological manipulation.[2]

Profiles of abuser and victim

Individuals of all walks of life can find themselves in an abusive relationship. Abuse can occur regardless of the couple's age, race, income, or other demographic traits. There are, however, many traits that abusers and victims share in common.

The Centre for Promoting Alternatives to Violence describes abusers as being obsessively jealous and possessive, overly confident, having mood swings or a history of violence or temper, seeking to isolate their partner from family, friends and colleagues, and having a tendency to blame external stressors.[3]

Meanwhile, victims of relationship abuse share many traits as well, including: physical signs of injury, missing time at work or school, slipping performance at work or school, changes in mood or personality, increased use of drugs or alcohol, and increasing isolation from friends and family.[4] Victims may blame themselves for any abuse that occurs or may minimize the severity of the crime. This often leads to victims choosing to stay in abusive relationships.

Strauss (2005)[5] argues that while men inflict the greater share of injuries in domestic violence, researchers and society at large must not overlook the substantial minority of injuries inflicted by women. Additionally, Strauss notes that even relatively minor acts of physical aggression by women are a serious concern:

'Minor' assaults perpetrated by women are also a major problem, even when they do not result in injury, because they put women in danger of much more severe retaliation by men. It will be argued that in order to end 'wife beating,' it is essential for women also to end what many regard as a 'harmless' pattern of slapping, kicking, or throwing something at a male partner who persists in some outrageous behavior and 'won't listen to reason.'

Similarly, Deborah Capaldi [6] reports that a 13-year longitudinal study found that a woman's aggression towards a man was equally important as the man's tendency towards violence in predicting the likelihood of overall violence: "Since much IPV [Intimate Partner Violence] is mutual and women as well as men initiate IPV, prevention and treatment approaches should attempt to reduce women's violence as well as men's violence. Such an approach has a much higher chance of increasing women's safety."


Emotional Abuse

  • He/She is afraid of his/her date
  • He/She is afraid of making the date angry and are unable to even disagree with the date.
  • His/Her date has publicly embarrassed and humiliated him/her.

Psychological Abuse

  • The date threatens to use violence against him/her or against himself/herself.(e.g. "If you leave me, I will kill myself".)

Sexual Abuse

  • The date forces his/her partner to have sex with him/her.
  • He/she is afraid to say 'no' to the date's demand for a sexual act from him/her.
  • The date does not respect him/her, but is only interested in gratifying his/her own sexual needs.
  • The date does not care about the consequences of the sexual act or how his/her partner feels about it.

Physical Abuse

  • He/she was subjected to some physical attacks by his/her partner
  • The date has held him/her down, pushed him/her, or even punched, kicked or threw things at him/her.

Controlling behaviour

  • The date has tried to keep him/her from seeing friends.
  • He/she is restricted from contacting his/her family
  • He/she is even forced to choose between the date and his/her family and friends.
  • The date insists on knowing where he/she is at all times and demands that he/she justify everything he/she does.
  • The date will be furious if he/she spoke with another man/woman.
  • The date expects him/her to ask permission before seeking health care for himself/herself.
  • The date dictates what he/she wears and how he/she appears in public.

See also


  2. Family and Community Development @eCitizen. Warning Signs of Abusive Relationship
  3. Centre for Promoting Alternatives to Violence
  4. Dating Violence, (ACADV)
  5. Strauss, Murray A. (2005) "Women's Violence Towards Men Is A Serious Social Problem." In D.R. Loeske, et al., eds. Current controversies in family violence. Newbery Park: Sage Publications.
  6. "quoted in Sacks, Glenn. (2009) Researcher Says Women's Initiation of Domestic Violence Predicts Risk to Women." on, 06 July 2009. URL retrieved 09 September 2009.

External links

Canadian resources
  • RespectED, Provided by the Canadian Red Cross, give information to teens, parents, and teachers about abuse in dating relationships.
UK resources
US resources

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