According to the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (2008), one in four teens experience dating violence.

February is Dating Violence Awareness month.  It is clear that dating violence continues to impact the lives of many young people in our community, however society often sends confusing and unclear messages about what dating violence is, making it difficult for communities to offer support to young people who are survivors.

What is dating violence?

Dating violence is defined as the use of physical, emotional and/or sexual violence to gain power, and maintain control in a casual or serious dating relationship.

Studies on dating violence are still up and coming, so we often see a domestic violence framework being used with younger people who are experiencing dating violence.  Generally, we see an understanding of domestic violence limited to physical assault (punching, hair pulling, assault, rape).  This is largely due to the ways the media sensationalizes domestic violence as strictly physical violence.  For example, most of the movies on the popular television network Lifetime, portrays domestic violence with extreme physical violence.  Additionally, when survivors of domestic violence are featured on the news or talk shows, they often choose stories where a survivor has survived attempted murder and was subjected to extreme physical violence.  Murder and physical assault are very serious and real problems in the fight of violence against women and should be taken seriously, however it is usually the only type of violence that is recognized as domestic violence in the media and society.

Emotional abuse actually occurs frequently among young people and can have a very damaging effect on the well being of the survivor.  Emotional abuse can include: name-calling, public humiliation, frequent put-downs, repeated interrogations, your partner treating you as if you are stupid or crazy, and your partner accusing you of flirting or having sex with others.

Abuse in a dating violence relationship is hardly ever constant, but occurs in a cycle.  In the beginning stages of a relationship, everything can seem perfect.  This is often known as the honeymoon stage and can last a couple months or even a couple years.  Then tension begins to build.  The abuser may make you feel like you are always walking on egg shells constantly trying to control you or blame you for everything that goes wrong in the relationship.  The next stage is the abuse where the explosion of the first stage occurs.  The abuser becomes physically and/or emotionally abusive.  The third stage is the make up stage, where the abuser apologizes and promises to never hurt you again, they may buy you gifts or flowers.  Things at this point may feel as they did in the beginning of the relationship, but then the tension building will begin again, restarting the cycle of abuse.

It is often because of this cycle, that it is difficult for the survivor to leave an abusive relationship.  When you love someone, it can be easy to believe that the person you love will change for the better.

Here are some tips on how to help a friend who is being abused in a dating relationship.

• Let them know that it is not their fault & they don’t deserve it.
• Give them resources where they can go for help & offer to go with them (resource list is at the end of the article)
•    Believe them and support their decisions
• Ensure Confidentiality
• Create a safety plan

If you’d like to help address dating violence in your community, please give Chaya/Asian Pacific Islander Safety Center a call.  (206) 467-9976.  We are always looking for volunteers! Here are some resources if you or someone you know is experiencing dating violence: Chaya/Asian & Pacific Islander Safety Center: (206) 467-9976. The Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans, and Lesbian Survivors of Abuse: (206) 568-7777. Youth Eastside Services: (425) 747-4937. National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 866-331-9474.

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