Warning Signs for Dating Violence

The following are general warning signs of the potential for sexual or physical violence in dating relationships. Each warning sign is accompanied by facts or approaches that may help you reduce your risk of being victimized. This information may also help you to offer better support to women who are assaulted.

Warning sign: Your partner makes threats of violence.

Reducing the risk: Any threat should be taken seriously. Get help immediately when a partner threatens to use violence. It is not a joke or a game. Men who threaten will generally carry out their threats. You can get help from counselors, women's shelters, teachers and a variety of community groups. Your friends may also offer support, but be cautious. If the person you go to for advice trivializes your experience or tells you "boys will be boys," go elsewhere.

Warning sign: Your partner is obsessedwith dominating and controlling you.

Reducing the risk: Exploring your partner's attitude towards women is probably a useful technique for reducing risk. Knowing how he feels about issues like equality between partners or compromise in decision making is important. Look for early signs that he has to "have it all his own way."

Warning sign: Your partner is sexually possessive and often degrades or humiliates you.

Reducing the risk: Possessiveness should be addressed directly. You have to tell your partner that it will not be tolerated. Whether you are dating someone or not, you have the right to do what you want with your body. If he objects, he can always leave the relationship.

Warning signs: You know your dating partner abused a former girlfriend. His father is physically abusive. Your partner accepts or defends the use of violence.

Reducing the risk: Dating abuse is often part of a continuing pattern of behavior. If your partner was abusive in a previous relationship, then the risk is very high that he will be abusive in this relationship. Men often become accustomed to violence because they see it as a way of life in their family or peer group. To break this pattern, urge your partner to get counseling. Many men discuss their use of violence with their peers. Friends should tell friends that abuse is wrong. Women should be encouraged to report their experiences. When the victim is silent, the abuser may think he can "get away with it." Silence may also give him the message that his violence isn't really a problem.