What is dating violence?

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Dating violence involves a person in a relationship inflicting physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse upon their partner. If you think you may be experiencing dating violence, remember it’s never OK and not your fault.

What is dating violence?

Dating violence is when a person in a relationship physically, emotionally and/or sexually abuses their partner. It’s sometimes referred to as intimate partner violence (IPV) or domestic violence (particularly when it happens at home). It can affect anyone in a dating relationship, regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, age or any other trait.

Dating violence is often about a person wanting/having power and control over their partner. It usually begins with emotional abuse and may escalate to include other forms of abuse. Dating violence may include:

  • Physical abuse
    • pushing, shoving, grabbing
    • scratching, biting, spitting
    • punching, slapping, kicking, choking
    • slamming a partner against a wall
  • Emotional abuse
    • threats
    • insults
    • criticism
    • name-calling
    • threatening to “out” a partner’s sexual orientation or gender identity
    • making a partner feel inferior
    • making a partner feel guilty
    • isolating a partner from friends, family and others (i.e. enforcing rules about who they can and can’t hang out with)
    • giving a partner the “silent treatment”
    • threatening to break up with a partner
    • stalking
  • Sexual abuse
    • sexual assault
    • rape
    • any sexual activity without consent (e.g. touching, kissing or groping, sexual activity with a partner who is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, etc.)
    • coercing or persuading a partner to do something they don’t want to do (e.g. forcing a partner to pose for nude and/or sexual photos, pressuring a partner to sext, etc.)
    • refusing to use birth control or restricting a partner’s access to birth control

What are the warning signs of dating violence?

There are ways to recognize dating violence (although everyone’s experience will be different). A person who is abusing their partner may:

  • demand to see calls, texts and/or emails (with or without permission)
  • control who they talk to and who they spend time with
  • limit where they can go and when
  • tell them what they can and can’t do
  • constantly check in (repeatedly call, text and/or email, stop by unannounced, etc.)
  • threaten to hurt them (or injure themselves) if they try to leave
  • act jealous and/or get angry for no reason
  • restrict access to things they need
  • spread rumours about them online
  • harass or humiliate them online
  • share (or threaten to share) nude/sexual images without consent
  • blame others for the abusive behaviour, or deny it altogether

Some of the behaviours involved in dating violence may be illegal. Dating violence may intensify if the person who’s experiencing it doesn’t get support and let others know they need help. Violence — and violence resulting in death — are most likely to occur when the person experiencing the abuse leaves or plans to leave the relationship. It’s important to be prepared, connect with people who’ll support you and have a safety plan.

I’m experiencing dating violence — what can I do?

Dating violence can be a traumatic experience. Remember, you’re never responsible or to blame for your partner’s actions.

If you’re experiencing dating violence, you may:

  • be fearful of your partner
  • be afraid to leave the relationship
  • not want to talk about the abuse
  • be isolated from friends, family and others (physically or emotionally)
  • make excuses for and/or downplay/deny your partner’s behaviour
  • feel like you deserve the abuse
  • use drugs
  • miss a lot of school or work
  • experience flashbacks and/or have trouble with memory
  • feel numb and be withdrawn
  • have thoughts of suicide
  • feel embarrassed and/or ashamed
  • feel “stuck”
  • always be on alert
  • avoid things that remind you of the abuse

There are things you can do to deal with dating violence and protect yourself. Here are some things you can try:

  • Learn more: learning about healthy vs. unhealthy relationships, consent and sexual assault can help you stay informed about dating violence. Knowing the facts can help you be more prepared to talk about your experience, if you choose to do so.
  • Talk about it: even though dating violence can be hard to talk about, sharing your experience with someone you trust can help you feel less isolated. You can try telling your story to a friend, sibling or safe adult (parent/caregiver, teacher, etc.). Kids Help Phone counsellors are available 24/7 at 1-800-668-6868 if you want to talk. Each of these resources can help you decide on next steps.
  • Create a safety plan: developing a safety plan can help you escape from a violent situation. It’s important to know who you can talk to and where you can go in case of an emergency. Kids Help Phone’s Safety Planner can help you get started. You can also check Resources Around Me for violence and abuse support in your community. If you’re in immediate physical danger or are injured, you can call 911 or the emergency services in your area. Remember, you can take steps to increase your safety, and you don’t have to do it alone.

Remember, dating violence is never part of a healthy relationship. Your safety and well-being are essential. If you’re experiencing dating violence, it’s important to get help. Talking to someone you trust can be a good first step to getting support.