couple standing on the sidewalk

Understanding Dating Violence

Dating is exciting — there's no doubt about it. Dating can also be confusing, no matter how experienced you are. Sometimes it can be hard to recognize a good date or a good relationship versus an unhealthy one. If something doesn't feel right to you, it probably isn't. If your boyfriend, girlfriend or partner is hurting you — physically, emotionally or even online — that's called dating abuse, and it's never OK.

How it starts

Many times, dating abuse starts out as:

  • Teasing
  • Harassing
  • Excessive jealousy
  • Possessiveness

Teens or young adults may think these behaviors are a normal part of a relationship and interpret them as signs of love, but this type of emotional abuse can set the stage for more serious physical violence.

Physical abuse

Physical abuse includes any form of unwanted contact, such as:

  • Punching
  • Scratching
  • Hitting
  • Slapping
  • Grabbing
  • Forced sexual acts

Abusive relationships often worsen over time. Physical violence can become more severe and frequent if left unchecked.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse may be subtle, but it is often a warning sign of an unhealthy relationship. This type of abuse may include:

  • Yelling
  • Name-calling
  • Threatening
  • Humiliation
  • Stalking
  • Controlling when dating partners see friends and family
  • Influencing what dating partners do and wear

Emotional abuse may not leave physical scars, but it can cause emotional damage. Such abuse can cause:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug abuse
  • Physical violence

Digital abuse

Digital abuse can include harassment or threats sent through:

  • Email
  • Texts
  • Social media

Additional warning signs include:

  • Use of social media to stalk or keep tabs on a dating partner
  • Constant text messaging
  • Sending explicit photos

Where to find help

Whether you're concerned about yourself or someone you care about, help is available. If you are mistreated by your partner, don't be ashamed. It's not your fault, and you're not alone. Keep yourself safe while you get help and decide what to do. You can seek help from:

  • Friends
  • Parents
  • Teachers
  • School counselors
  • Trusted adults

Trained peer advocates are available online at Love is Respect, via private chat, by phone at 866-331-8453 or text "loveis" to 22522.

Teens, check out That's Not Cool for information, games and tools like the Respect Effect app that helps you take action to prevent teen dating violence. You can also contact Military OneSource online or via phone at 800-342-9647 and talk to a consultant who can refer you to someone who can help in your local community.