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The Reality of Dating Violence

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By: Shawna Anderson-Curry, MA, LPC – Non-Residential Dating Violence Counselor II

The following article is part two of a four-week series focusing on raising awareness about dating violence. February is Dating Violence Awareness month, and we hope to educate our community on this very important issue. 1 in 3 young people will experience dating violence in their lifetime. Locally, the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center has been serving victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and child abuse since 1978. Last year, HCWC served 2,023 victims of abuse (face-to-face) primarily from Hays and Caldwell Counties.    

“That doesn’t happen to young people.” “It’s not a big deal.” “If it is happening, it should be easy for them to just break-up.”  These are all common misconceptions that relate to the prevalence and impact of dating violence.  Dating violence occurs among young people at an alarming rate.  The short- and long-term effects of experiencing dating violence can be detrimental to all aspects of a person’s well-being.

Dating violence incorporates more than just physical violence and the outward appearance of cuts and bruises.  Similar to domestic violence, dating violence involves a pattern of behaviors.  It is a cycle that uses emotional manipulation tactics to reel the survivor in and then it escalates from there.  At first, it truly might not seem like a big deal.  The start of the abuse can be subtle and hidden under the illusion that the perpetrator loves them.  It can look like:

  • Telling their partner that nobody will ever love them as much as they do.
  • Trying to limit or control who their partner spends time with, where they go, or what they wear.
  • Demanding that their partner always spend time with them and respond to their calls or text right away.
  • Making their partner feel guilty for their decisions; thus causing the survivor to question their own judgment and lose trust in themselves.
  • Threatening to harm themselves.

A young person who has limited intimate relational experience can easily begin to rationalize or ignore questionable behaviors that arise in their relationships.  As time goes on, these questionable behaviors can turn into blatant red flags.  At this point, someone who is in an abusive relationship may likely feel a sense of dependence on their partner.  Isolation and intimidation are common tactics that are used to separate the survivor from other forms of support.  Unfortunately, the lockdowns that occurred in response to the present COVID-19 pandemic led to situations where young people were quarantined with their abusive partners.  This resulted in their physical separation from friends and family and limited access to support.  It is also important to note that after an explosive incident, the abuser oftentimes apologizes and promises to never act that way again. This is a powerful manipulation tactic that plays on a young person’s hope that their ideal relationship will work out.  In conclusion, it is not always easy for a young person to leave an abusive relationship.  It can be an ongoing process.

If you or someone you know is involved in an abusive relationship, know that support is possible.  Young people’s experiences are valid and deserved to be listened to.  HCWC offers free and confidential counseling and advocacy services to support survivors of dating violence. The reality is that love shouldn’t hurt at any age.  Call our 24-hour HELPLine at 512-396-4357 or visit www.hcwc.org .  You can also find more resources on how to talk to the young people in your life by visiting our educational website: www.StopTheHurt.org .

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