Tips for Dating Safety and Avoiding Dating Violence
Dating violence can happen to anyone. It is important to recognize the “red flags” of an unhealthy relationship and know when to end a relationship that is, or may become, destructive or abusive. Remember that there are people you can turn to in a time of crisis. The following strategies can help you identify dating violence and protect yourself. There is nothing of greater importance than your own personal safety.
There are certain “red flags” that indicate that you may be experiencing abuse in a relationship. You have to know yourself and what feels uncomfortable or unusual in order to tell which of these signs can actually be linked to an abusive relationship. Trust other people who know you as well. If friends or family tell you that they are concerned about your relationship or how you are treated by your dating partner, they could be right.
There are behaviors to watch for in your dating partner that can indicate abuse, such as:
- Insulting you in front of others
- Controlling your money and finances
- Quickly losing his or her temper with you or someone else
- Demanding to know where you are at all times
- Making most of the decisions about your relationship
- Requiring that he or she approves of your clothing or make-up choices
- Showing signs of extreme jealousy
- Hitting, pushing or acting out violently (this is never acceptable, and you should get help immediately)
If you are in an unhealthy relationship, you may notice that your behavior has changed also. For example, you may be:
- Spending all of your time with a dating partner and very little time with friends
- Losing interest in or giving up activities that once were important to you
- Feeling afraid of your dating partner
- Feeling depressed or anxious
- Refusing to discuss your relationship with others, including close friends and family
- Having bruises or injuries inflicted upon you by your partner
- Apologizing or making excuses for your dating partner’s behavior, anger or jealousy
Often violence in a relationship is used as a way to be in control or maintain power in a relationship. The partner that is violent is responsible. Understand that it if you are in an abusive relationship, it is not your fault and it is not your responsibility to change your partner’s behavior. Your safety is very important and it is okay to seek help. The following tips will help you protect yourself from dating violence:
- While on a date be sure to stay in public places and refuse to go anywhere with a date who has been drinking or doing drugs.
- If you are going on a date with someone that you do not know and would like to take an extra precaution, try a group date with friends.
- Know that any behavior that makes you feel uncomfortable is not okay and it is OK to stand up for yourself. Listen to your inner voice and trust your own judgment about unsafe situations.
- Rely on friends and family to discuss a difficult situation. If you feel threatened there are several ways to get help (see resources below).
- Remember that dating should be fun! Feeling fearful or unsafe is not fun!
Feeling safe in a relationship is crucial. No matter what you may have done to upset your partner, you never deserve to be treated in a degrading or violent manner. Your dating partner should never put you down or make you feel bad about yourself. Healthy dating relationships require responsibility and mutual respect.
You should never be forced to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, including being forced into sexual activity.
If you see or experience any warning signs of abuse, use all the resources available to you to help end the abusive relationship and create healthy relationships in the future. These resources may include a counselor, social worker or a private therapist.
These resources are available for more information and/or help:
Emergency Help: 911
Break the Cycle: www.breakthecycle.org; www.thesafespace.org
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7266)
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474
National Center for Victims of Crime: www.ncvc.org/victimassistance (1-800-394-2255)
Liz Claiborne Inc. Women’s Work: www.loveisnotabuse.org 1-800-449-STOP (7864)
The Parenting Institute: 212-263-6622
Futures Without Violence: http://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/