Thursday, June 4, 2009

Who does dating abuse affect?

I feel like I’ve been hearing a lot of misconceptions lately about who experiences domestic and dating abuse. A lot of people think it’s an adult problem, or something that only happens to women, or an issue that only comes up in poor neighborhoods or communities of color. I want to take this opportunity to clear something up: dating abuse affects everyone.

First things first. Relationship abuse isn’t just something that only adults or married couples experience. In fact, young women between the ages of 16-24 are at the highest risk for abuse in their relationships. Also, you’ve heard it before but I’ll say it again: as many as one in three teens experience dating abuse. That’s over ten students per any average high school classroom.

Second. Women are not the only victims of abuse. Men and boys can, and do, experience relationship abuse as well. This is an easy thing to be confused about - we certainly do hear about men abusing women much more than we hear about women abusing men, or about abuse in same-sex relationships. I think, though, that this is partly because men and boys are much less likely to report abuse that they experience in their relationships. They may feel ashamed or embarrassed, or maybe they think no one would believe them, or that they’re doing something wrong, or maybe they don’t even recognize their partner’s behaviors as abusive. By avoiding the assumption that abuse only happens by a man against a woman, we can help everyone feel more comfortable seeking help for abuse – regardless of their gender or sexuality.

And finally. Abuse can happen in any community. It does not matter how much money you have, what you look like, how popular you are, how much education you or your parents have, what language you speak – abuse, unfortunately, does not discriminate. By denying that domestic and dating abuse exists, we also deny people the right to speak up when they experience it, the right to receive dating abuse prevention education, and the right to competent and compassionate services for help. The sooner we acknowledge that domestic and dating abuse can happen in our community (and that when it does, it is a community problem) – the sooner we can move forward in trying to end and prevent it.

What myths have you confronted about dating abuse and who it affects? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


  1. My pleasure to come across your blog and read it, keep posting.

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