Tips for Parents
Discussing Dating Violence
The issue of dating violence has come very prominently to light as a result of May's alleged murder of a University of Virginia senior by a fellow student she used to date.
Dating violence is physical, sexual, emotional and/or verbal abuse between persons who are now, or have been, in a casual or serious dating relationship. Sometimes, in their inexperience, young daters find certain behaviors flattering in their partners, instead of recognizing that they could be signs of potential abuse. Not allowing someone to spend time with friends, texting someone constantly to check in, and offering "advice" about hair or clothes are all behaviors that could be considered "cute," but in reality might mean much more.
Following are some issues to talk about with your student now as a cautionary tale.
What are the characteristics of dating violence?
- Your partner gets jealous when you go out or talk with others
- Your partner constantly checks up on you
- Your partner frightens or intimidates you
- Your partner imposes restrictions on the way you dress or your appearance
- Your partner puts you down, but then tells you he or she loves you
- Your partner makes you choose between him/her and your family
- You are afraid to break up with your partner because you fear for your personal safety
What factors contribute to dating violence?
- The need for peer approval
- Gender-role expectations
- Lack of experience in relationships
- Little contact with adult resources
- Less access to societal resources like medical attention and shelters
- Barriers to gaining legal assistance
- Substance abuse
- Pressures by peers to act violently
- "Romanticized" view of love
What are some of the most common forms of verbal and emotional abuse?
- Name calling
- Intimidating looks
- Use of pagers and cell phones to maintain constant contact
- Monopolizing a partner's time
- Isolation from family and friends
- Making a person feel insecure
- Saying, "I love you" too soon
- Making threats
- Humiliating a person in public
What are some of the most common forms of sexual abuse?
- Unwanted touching and kissing
- Statutory rape
What are some of the most common forms of physical abuse?
- Hitting, beating, shoving and pushing
- Roughhousing/play wrestling
What can you do if your student needs help?
If you do find yourself in a conversation about a potentially abusive relationship, consider the following:
- Demonstrate a willingness to listen non-judgmentally
- Ask open-ended questions to encourage dialogue
- Try to dialogue, rather than interrogate
- Refrain from showing negative body language
- Reflect back on what you are hearing at various points during the conversation—this could help your student realize that something does not sound right when he hears it repeated
- Get assistance, if necessary, and don't forget to offer resources, on campus and beyond, that could be helpful
Unhealthy relationships can occur if a student doesn't raise his/her awareness and talk with trusted others. That's where you come in.
Source: But I Love Him by Dr. Jill Murray (2000)
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