What is Teen Dating Violence?

Dating violence is a pattern of behaviours one person uses to gain and maintain power and control over their dating partner, where one person chooses to control the relationship through the use of force, intimidation, or fear. Because this often involves a pattern of behaviour, the abuse happens again and again, and can get more violent over time. It affects people regardless of race, class, gender, or sexual orientation. Dating violence can look different in each relationship, however even a one-time incident of dating violence is NOT ok.

Many people assume abuse means that physical violence is happening, but that’s not always the case.  Abuse comes in many forms. Violent words and actions are tools an abusive partner uses to gain and maintain power and control over their dating partner resulting in emotional abuse and manipulation.


 Verbal Abuse

  • Calling their partner names, insulting them and putting them down.
  • Telling their partner what to wear, what to do and what not to wear and do.
  • Calling, texting or emailing constantly.
  • Always demanding to know who the partner is with and where they are.
  • Threatening to hurt their partner.

Verbal abuse and emotional abuse often lead to physical violence. Just because a relationship is not physically violent does not mean that it is a healthy relationship.

Emotional Abuse

  • Going through the partner’s possessions without their permission.
  • Acting jealous.
  • Not letting the partner spend time with friends and family.
  • Blaming the partner for everything.
  • Accusing the partner of cheating on them.

Physical Abuse

  • Shaking, grabbing.
  • Pulling hair.
  • Slapping, punching, and kicking.
  • Using objects or weapons to hurt you.
  • Choking, strangling.

Sexual Abuse

  • Touching or kissing when the partner does not want to.
  • Pressuring or forcing the partner to have sex or do other sexual things.
  • Preventing the use of birth control.

Financial Abuse

  • Forbidding the partner to work.
  • Refusing to work or contribute.
  • Sabotaging work or employment opportunities.
  • Controlling how all of the money is spent.
  • Not allowing the partner access to bank accounts.
  • Forcing the partner to write bad checks or file fraudulent tax returns.
  • Running up large amounts of debt on joint accounts, taking bad credit loans.
  • Withholding funds to obtain basic needs such as food and medicine.
  • Hiding assets.
  • Stealing the partner’s identity, property or inheritance.

Technology-Facilitated Violence

  • Tells the partner who they you can or can’t be friends with on Facebook and other sites.
  • Sends negative, insulting or threatening emails, Facebook messages, tweets, DMs or other messages online.
  • Uses sites like Facebook, Twitter, foursquare and others to keep constant tabs on their partner
  • Puts the partner down in their status updates.
  • Sends the partner unwanted, explicit pictures and/or demands the partner to send some in return.
  • Pressures the partner to send explicit video or texts.
  • Insists on being given passwords or manipulates the partner to provide them or steals them.
  • Constantly texts and makes them feel like they can’t be separated from their phone for fear of disappointing them or of being threatened or punished.
  • Looks through the partner’s phone frequently, checks on your pictures, texts and outgoing calls.
  • Tags the partner negatively in pictures on Instagram, Tumblr, etc.
  • Uses any kind of technology (such as spyware or GPS in a car or settings on a phone) to monitor the whereabouts of their partner.

Every relationship is different, but the things that unhealthy and abusive relationships have in common are issues of manipulation, power and control. Each type of abuse is serious and no one deserves to experience abuse of any kind.

If you know someone who you think is experiencing dating violence, encourage them to chat with a trusted adult or seek help from one of the organizations listed below. Often one form of dating violence is part of a continuum of gender-based violence that can be both online and in person. BC teens are not alone and there are confidential safe support services available for them.

Spark Teen Digital Dating Violence Project

This document is a part of the Spark: Responding to Teen Digital Dating Violence Toolkit. This document, or any portion thereof, may be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever as long as acknowledgment to the BC Society of Transition Houses and Day One, New York, United States is included in the product.

Adapted from Day One, New York, United States.

This document was published March 2021.

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