ARE YOU A VICTIM? WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Dating violence and acquaintance assault is the focus of this article. October has been designated as National Domestic Violence Awareness month. The Santa Ynez Valley News and People Helping People have run these articles to educate the public regarding the traumatic impacts of this crime.
Dating violence and acquaintance assault happens more frequently than most people think. Research shows that violence often occurs between people who are dating. Up to one third of young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 have reported being involved in at least one abusive dating situation. Dating violence can occur in any dating relationship with either gender being the victim.
Dating abuse is defined as "any harmful or unwanted physical, sexual, verbal or emotional act inflicted by a casual or intimate dating partner." If you are a woman who is dating now, there is a 50-50 chance you will suffer some form of abuse by a dating partner. Such abuse is an accurate indicator of future spousal abuse; for many women, the abuse, which began while dating, continues and intensifies with marriage.
The prevalence of dating violence also affects our children. Twenty percent of female homicide victims are 15-24 years old. One in four, or 28 percent of high school and college students surveyed said they had experienced violence in a dating relationship.
Unfortunately, young people tend to interpret the violence of their partner as signifying love. In a recent study by Levy and Barrie of victims 15-24 years old, 25-35 percent of the victims interpreted violence as love; 60 percent felt it had no affect on the relationship and 40 percent felt it worsened their relationship. An alarming statistic reveals that 70 percent of college women felt that one form of abuse in a relationship was acceptable.
While alcohol and drugs frequently are present in dating violence, it is important to note that alcohol and/or drug use does not cause violence. People who are violent to a partner usually blame the other for their actions.
The statistics reported regarding dating violence are alarming both in the scope of the problem and its acceptance by the victims. Violence in a relationship is a crime and legal steps can and should be taken to protect the victim.
The cycle of dating and domestic violence is repeated by our children, but has its roots in the behavior of the adults in the home. Research shows that 50 percent of girls living in violent homes will become victims of partner abuse. Eighty five percent of teen boys living with violence will be abusive to their partners or violent in some way.
Are you a victim of dating violence? (See inset) If your answer is "yes" to this question, you can:
á Tell someone. Go to a friend's house or any place where people can give you emotional support.
á Report your assault. Dating violence and acquaintance rape is a crime.
á Seek counseling. A professional can help you regain the trust, support and faith in your own judgment that the incident has damaged.
á Remember you are not alone. Acquaintance assault is far too common in dating and cohabitation situations. Nationally, it happens to one in four women.
á Phone People Helping People at 686-0295. Help is available.
RECOGNIZING A POTENTIAL ABUSER IN A DATING RELATIONSHIP
(Note for Pamela - Insert this and "Healthy Relationship" in a shaded area)
Many victims don't recognize that they are being abused. They don't realize how they have gradually changed because of the abuse. Are you a victim of dating violence? Answer the questions below. If you answer yes to two or more of them, you are in an abusive relationship, or your relationship is likely to become abusive.
á Are you frightened by your boyfriend/girlfriends behavior?
á Are you afraid to disagree with him/her?
á Do you find yourself apologizing to yourself or others for your boyfriend/girlfriend's behavior when you were treated badly?
á Have you been frightened by his/her violence towards others?
á Have you been hit, kicked, shoved, had your hair pulled, or had things thrown at you?
á Have you been hurt in a "joking" way - had an arm twisted, been tickled, pulled or pushed?
á Do you not see friends or family because of his/her jealousy?
á Have you been forced to have sex or been afraid to say no?
á Are you forced to justify everything you do, every place you go and every person you see to avoid his/her temper?
á Does he/she expect you to spend all your time with him/her?
á Does he/she abuse alcohol or other drugs?
á Does he tell you how to dress, how to wear your makeup and/or hair?
á Does he/she show extreme jealousy?
á Does he/she criticize and/or degrade you?
HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS LOOK LIKE:
á NEGOTIATION AND FAIRNESS- willing to compromise
á NON-THREATENING BEHAVIOR- partner makes me feel safe and comfortable expressing myself
á RESPECT-partner values my opinions, listens with non-judgment, provides emotional support and understanding
á TRUST AND SUPPORT - partner supports my life goals and respects my rights to my own opinions
á HONESTY AND ACCOUNTABILITY - partner takes responsibility for him/herself, admits being wrong, communicates openly and truthfully
á GENDER EQUALITY - relationship decisions are based on individual needs rather than gender.
á SHARED RESPONSIBILITY - there is mutual agreement on a fair distribution of work and decision making
á ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP - make money decisions together, and we both benefit from financial agreements