Ah, the romance of love. You get butterflies, you talk on the phone all night, and you’re not allowed to see your friends. Huh? Recognize the behaviour of a potential abuser and keep yourself (and your friends) out of harm’s way.
Being in a relationship is a good thing. You’ve found someone who cracks you up when you’re grumpy and who makes you feel special. But everyone knows relationships aren’t always easy; it’s natural to fight or disagree. And while there are healthy ways for people to express emotions, there are dangerous, abusive ways, too. Before you or someone you care about becomes a victim of dating violence, know the warning signs. A potential abuser will do things such as:
• Use your feelings for them as a reason to force you into doing something you’re not ready for.
• Threaten to hurt themselves, you, or others if you break up.
• Forbid you from speaking to certain people.
• Show jealousy and possessiveness.
• Demand you spend all your free time together.
• Ask where you are and what you do, all the time.
• Call you names, make jokes at your expense, and talk about you behind your back.
• Humiliate, insult, criticize, or belittle you in private or in public.
• Disregard your feelings.
• Criticize your appearance or how you dress.
• Physically harm you in any way, even if it doesn’t hurt.
• Question your commitment to the relationship.
• Act jealous about your relationships with your friends and family.
• Tell you they can’t live without you.
• Say “If you love me, you’ll…” with regards to sexual activities.
• Not accept “No” as an answer.
• Pressure you to use drugs and make you feel embarrassed if you don’t want to.
Is your friend in an abusive relationship?
Keep an eye out for warning signs that someone may be involved with an abuser.
People who are being abused may:
• Undergo a dramatic weight loss or change in appearance.
• Experience a drop in grades, start skipping class, and show little or no interest in school.
• Lose interest in friends and activities they used to enjoy.
• Worry excessively about what their boyfriends or girlfriends may say or do, or seem nervous or jumpy when their partners are around.
• Constantly put themselves down or say they’re not good enough for their partner.
• Become depressed and withdrawn.
• Have difficulty sleeping.
• Have unexplained or poorly explained cuts, bruises, burns, or scars. If someone you care about tells you they’re being abused, listen and be supportive. Then tell a trusted adult together.
How do you spot abusers? What is dating violence?
Dating violence is when someone you’re involved with physically, sexually, or emotionally mistreats you in any way. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been dating or how many times the abuse happens. According to the Department of Justice Canada, dating violence “can be a single act of violence or a pattern that is repeated —and often escalates—over time.”
Look for these red flags:
• They abuse alcohol or drugs.
• They have a history of violent behaviour.
• They’re cruel to animals or younger people.
• They have frequent and distinct mood swings.
• They lash out at you for no reason.
• They blame you for their problems or for things they’ve done.
• They have a history of being physically, sexually, or emotionally abused, which puts them at significant risk of being violent in the future.
• Both guys and girls can be the victims of dating violence.
• You can be in an abusive relationship without ever being physically harmed.
What should you do?
If you’re a victim of dating violence, it can be difficult and scary to imagine leaving. Rest assured. There are safe ways to do it:
1. Tell someone you trust: Talk to a parent, sibling, family member, friend, teacher, or coach.
2. Tell someone privately: Contact Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868 or www.kidshelpphone.ca), The National Clearinghouse on Family Violence (1-800-267-1291), or Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-387-KIDS (5437)).
3. Tell someone locally: Many communities have abuse crisis centres or hotlines listed in the directory pages of the phone book.