The PLEA: Hanging Out and Hooking Up

The PLEA: Hanging Out and Hooking Up

Dating Violence – Twisted Love*

Dating violence can happen to anyone, regardless of their race or religion, income, gender or education. It can happen between heterosexual couples and same-sex couples. It can happen at any “stage” of the relationship, from the first date to early on in the relationship to throughout a lasting relationship. It may continue even after the relationship has ended. And, although dating violence can involve couples of any age, teen relationships are particularly at risk.

For many teens, dating is an opportunity to establish a relationship on their own terms, often with little guidance or direction from adults or peers. The privacy or even secrecy that often surrounds teen relationships can complicate the issue of establishing and maintaining a safe and healthy relationship. As with any new experience, teens may not know what to expect or demand in a relationship. They may be unsure about what is and what is not appropriate or acceptable behaviour.

Dating violence can take on many, many forms. It may involve a single act of violence – such as a sexual assault or date rape – or it may be part of a pattern of abusive behaviour within a dating relationship. The abuse may be...

  • physical – hitting, punching, pulling hair, pushing or shoving
  • sexual – any non-consensual sexual contact, taking advantage of someone’s sexuality, or sexual harassment
  • emotional or psychological – jealousy, control, excessively critical, threatening harm or spreading rumours or private images

For anyone experiencing violence in a relationship, recognizing that a person who supposedly cares for them is actually abusive can be difficult to accept. It may be particularly confusing when there are times when the relationship seems really good and everything seems fine.

Getting help when a relationship becomes violent can be difficult for anyone. For teens it is further complicated by the fact that the time when many teens begin dating coincides with the time when they are seeking independence for themselves. Many teens are reluctant to seek guidance or help from adults because they fear losing control of this private – even secret – part of their lives. Others may fear not being taken seriously, as adults may often refer to teen relationships as nothing more than “puppy love” or a passing crush.

For these reasons peers can play a vital role. Teens are more likely to confide in other teens and are also more likely to be influenced by what their peers say about healthy and unhealthy relationships. Sometimes just being able to talk about their experiences can help someone who has experienced violence to feel less isolated and alone. It can provide an opportunity to send a clear message that dating violence is unacceptable and wrong. It can help end the silence and the shame that allows the abuse to continue.

* The term “twisted love” is taken from a PBS show on dating violence, part of their award winning In the Mix series. The show features victims and perpetrators of dating violence and offers some insight from therapists as well as legal options from members of the legal community. The show also highlights a workshop conducted by teens designed to expose cultural and media stereotypes that contribute to abusive tendencies. You can check out excerpts on their YouTube channel, In the Mix.

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