Love hurts. But there is a major difference between a healthy relationship that is spotted by occasional arguments, and one that is defined by constant abuse and violence.
February is the third annual National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.
President Barack Obama made an official presidential proclamation on Jan. 31, 2013, stating that Americans have a “responsibility to make dating violence an act that is never tolerated in our communities, among those we know, or in our own lives.”
He said that around 1 in 10 teenagers will be abused in some form by dating partners this year. Obama added that young women are victims of dating violence more often than young men.
The official website for the awareness month www.teendvmonth.org/ states that dating violence “is a pattern of abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner.” Generally, the violent behaviors increase over periods of time.
According to the website, 1 in 3 U.S. girls suffers from verbal, emotional or physical abuse from the person they are dating. Dating violence can take the form of physical, verbal, emotional, sexual or technological abuse.
The website lists many warning signs of perpetrators, including dating partners who act possessive, check your phone or email without permission, and partners who express excessive jealousy, insecurity and anger.
Mental health experts further define dating violence and warning signs of perpetrators and victims.
Elizabeth Waterman, a licensed clinical psychologist who works at Morningside Recovery Center, said in an email that she considers teen dating violence to include any of the following:
She said the following are warning signs of victims of dating violence:
“Unexplained bruises or injuries, and when asked about the cause of the injuries, the person's explanation is vague or does not match the injury.”
“Someone becomes fearful, timid, reserved, isolated from friends, and these behaviors are not consistent with their personality, especially if they began during the course of a new relationship.”
Waterman added that there are also warning signs for perpetrators of dating violence:
“Aggressive and/or violence toward women in the past.”
“Quick tempered and expresses anger physically.”
“Highly controlling and jealous of partners.”
“High degree of criticism toward partner.”
Sheela Raja, a clinical psychologist and author of “Overcoming Trauma and PTSD,” said in an email that dating violence is not just about physical abuse and visible scars.
“It can be a matter of controlling someone, being overly jealous, or making them feel bad about themselves,” Raja said. “It can involve undermining their self-confidence.”
She provides some warning signs of dating violence to watch out for:
“Abusive partners often isolate their victims. So one big warning sign is that the victim will stop socializing with friends.”
“Teen girls in particular may initially experience that intense emotional focus of the batterer as flattering. Eventually that focus turns into jealousy and isolation. At that point the victim is cut off from their support system.”
“Another sign is when a girl that used to be very confident suddenly begins to doubt herself and put herself down.”
Christine Gutierrez, a psychotherapist and life coach, said in an email that dating violence can include spiritual and economical violence as well, and it can be passive-aggressive or aggressive.
Here are more signs suggesting you could be suffering from dating violence:
“You are feeling like you need to walk on eggshells, meaning you feel insecure and nervous around your partner.”
“You feel that everything you say or do is wrong.”
“Perhaps you are experiencing tons of shame and guilt and are slowly reducing contact with other friends and family member and social activities.”
“Your partner begins to call you names, perhaps even in a joking way, criticizing you.”
“Overall you feel controlled and constantly sad and nervous.”
If your partner is doing any of the following, it could be time to get out of a relationship involving dating violence:
“He/she is controlling (looks through your emails, your phone).”
“Expressing jealousy and doesn't want you to be friends with your current friends or other men/women that your partner considers a threat, which is essentially everyone.”
“There is a cycle of punishment towards you then deep remorse from the abuser.”