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Violence in Dating Relationships. Dating violence is a ificant and widespread social problem. It is expressed in a range of harmful behaviours — from threats, to emotional maltreatment, to physical and sexual aggression. While some forms of abusive behaviour, such as acts of physical assault, could result in charges under the Criminal Code of Canada, others, such as ridiculing or otherwise being verbally abusive, are harmful but not criminal offences.

Dating violence has become an issue of increasing concern to researchers and practitioners over the past three decades. This paper considers how dating violence is defined, what its consequences are, and what can be done about it. For the purpose of this paper, dating violence is defined as any intentional physical, sexual or psychological assault on a person by a dating partner. Footnote 1 Dating partners include both casual dates and individuals in long-term dating relationships. All three forms of abuse — physical, sexual and emotional — can coexist, or the abuse can be characterized by any one of the three.

Studies indicate that dating violence can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or location of residence. It happens in both adolescent and adult relationships. A study in New Brunswick estimated that dating violence may begin as early as age Footnote 2. Physical Violence occurs when one partner uses physical force to control the other. It includes a range of assaults, from pushing, shoving and grabbing to choking, burning and assaulting with a weapon. Each of these acts could result in charges under the Criminal Code.

Physical violence is often characterized as moderate or severe. Footnote 3 Moderate acts of violence are defined as acts for which the risk of permanent harm or injury is low. Footnote 4 These are the most common forms of physical violence in dating relationships. In contrast, severe violence includes acts for which the risk of permanent or serious injury is high. According to a Canadian study, severe violence is relatively rare. Footnote 5 It includes behaviour such as hitting a partner with a hard object or assault with weapons. While the distinction between severe and moderate violence is common in the research literature, it is important to remember that the injuries resulting from physical violence depend on many factors, including the vulnerability of the victim e.

While the risk of physical injury may be moderate or extreme, any physical violence carries an accompanying risk of emotional harm. Sexual Violence includes coercing a dating partner to engage in sexual activity, using force to attempt or to have sexual relations, and attempting or having intercourse with a person who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol Footnote 6 and is unable to resist or give consent. Footnote 7. Emotional or Psychological Abuse includes insulting or swearing at, belittling or threatening a dating partner.

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Emotional abuse is common in dating relationships. Footnote 8 Research indicates that emotional abuse that is denigrating and employs intimidation is more likely to turn physically violent than other forms of emotional abuse. Footnote 9. In addition to categorizing the types of dating violence in this way physical, sexual and emotional; moderate and severesociological studies distinguish among the forms of dating violence according to other qualitative characteristics, such as frequency how often violence is used and the motives for its use.

Johnson, for example, has described four types of dating violence: intimate patriarchal terrorism, common couple violence, violent resistance and mutual violent control. Intimate Patriarchal Terrorism may be defined as the systematic use of violence and other abusive behaviour to control a partner. Violence in these types of relationships is generally frequent and escalates to severe violence. This type of dating violence is also characterized by attempts to isolate and economically subordinate the abused partner.

Straus estimated that it was present in less than 1. Footnote 11 Johnson argues that men are more likely than women to use this form of violence, but its use by either men or women is rare. Common Couple Violence is defined by Johnson as an intermittent use of violence against a partner with the intent to control the immediate situation.

The use of violence is conflict-based and, while it reoccurs, it does not usually escalate to severe violence. Johnson suggests that this is the most common form of dating violence and that men and women use it to equal degrees. Violent Resistance occurs when violence is used against partners who are themselves violent and controlling. It is most commonly used against a partner who is using intimate terrorism.

Mutual Violent Control identifies violent exchanges in which both partners are violent and controlling. Several studies indicate that dating violence is a serious problem in Canada, but it is still difficult to calculate its exact extent. Footnote 12 One reason for this is that different researchers use different definitions and questions to measure abusive experiences.

Some researchers use legal i. Some researchers ask about acts, and others ask about both the act and the feelings or response the victim had in reaction to it. Some research considers lifetime exposure to dating violence prevalencewhereas other research looks at dating violence within a specific time period incidence. We do know a of things about the nature and extent of the problem. Dating violence begins as early as grade school. Price et al.

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In other words, girls report higher victimization rates than boys. Footnote Footnote 15 In this study, men involved in same-sex and bisexual dating reported higher rates of sexual violence victimization than men involved only in heterosexual relationships. This suggests that men are being victimized by other men, but further investigation is needed. Straus surveyed students at 31 universities in 16 different countries regarding the prevalence of violence against dating partners.

He reported that there are high rates of dating violence among university students worldwide. In their study, DeKeseredy and Kelly found that These findings are not matched by those of other surveys. Harned found no difference between men and women in their use of violence. Swan and Snow reported that Women, on average, suffer higher rates of physical harm as a result of intimate partner violence than do men.

Simonelli et al. A of reasons perpetrator who is responsible for the attack, have been suggested for this, including the not the victim. Footnote 22 fact that men tend to be physically larger and stronger. One study suggests that the best predictor of being a victim of physical violence is perpetrating it oneself. Footnote 19 Bidirectional violence may involve retaliation or self-defence. Emotional violence is also widespread in university and college dating relationships.

Harned reported that emotional violence is so common in dating relationships as to be considered almost normative. In a study of Canadian university and college students, DeKeseredy and Kelly found that Factors that contribute to dating violence can be categorized depending on whether they relate primarily to the individual, the relationship, the immediate social context, the influence of peers or the wider societal context.

It is a complex interaction of these factors that creates the circumstances under which an individual acts out violently against a dating partner. Footnote 23 In particular, girls who witness their fathers using violence and boys who witness their mothers using violence are more likely to be violent in dating relationships. Footnote 24 This has been explained through social learning theory, which argues that we learn to use violence through witnessing it and being rewarded or seeing others rewarded for using it.

Footnote 25 We need to be cautious to avoid saying that witnessing violence le us to use violence. Individuals who hold attitudes that support the use of violence to settle conflicts or interpersonal problems are also more likely to perpetrate violence. Footnote 27 In addition, individuals who have higher levels of anger toward others and who are less willing to control their anger are more likely to perpetrate violence. Footnote 28 Finally, not surprisingly, individuals holding attitudes supporting dating violence are more likely to use it against a dating partner.

Footnote 29 Studies of male violence against women have found that men who have negative or patriarchal attitudes toward women and who have beliefs that support interpersonal violence are more likely to be violent in dating relationships. Researchers have also investigated the psychopathology of perpetrators in an attempt to understand dating violence. They have considered the role of personality disorders, exposure to trauma, developmental delays, attachment problems and emotional problems in the use of violence.

While such explanations are important, they run the risk of excusing the behaviour and of failing to view the perpetrator as responsible. Emotional problems matter in dating violence and are particularly important in treating perpetrators, but they do not excuse the violence.

Although some people who use dating violence do have emotional problems, they are often able to control their use of violence e. This suggests that while emotional problems matter, they too do not wholly determine violent behaviour. Howard and Wang developed a risk profile of women who experienced dating violence. They found that adolescent female victimization is related to feelings of sadness or hopelessness, binge drinking and cocaine or inhalant use. They also found that ethnicity is a factor in victimization. Footnote 31 This study examined young women after they had been abused, which makes it difficult to assess whether these features are the result of the violence or are features that make individuals more vulnerable to abuse.

Foshee et al. Relationship Factors: Recent research suggests that relationship factors are more important than individual factors in determining whether a relationship becomes violent. Footnote 33 Specific features of interactions that could contribute to dating violence have been identified. Perhaps the most important factor is related to power. Dating violence has been viewed as an attempt to control a partner — that is, to exercise power over the other. Footnote 34 Rather, it is about being able to exercise power when and where an individual deems appropriate.

Thus, it is not the absolute level of power an individual has in a relationship that is important; Footnote 35 rather, it is dissatisfaction with the relative levels of power. Footnote 36 Overall, violence is less likely when couples share decision-making and power. This is because violence often occurs in the context of disagreements about who should have dominant influence and make decisions. A study of adolescent males experiencing violence from same-sex dating partners found that the risk of violence is increased for men who have dating partners older than themselves, when compared with those who are dating partners of the same age or younger.

Relationship status also affects the likelihood of violence. Relationship status may be defined as the degree of commitment between the partners, categorized as casual or serious. Sexual violence is more common in casual relationships. Footnote 39 Psychological abuse is more common in more serious relationships and increases with the of serious relationships one has had over time. Footnote 40 Physical abuse is more common after a serious commitment has been made. Contextual Factors: Violence often occurs in the context of stress within the relationship, or when there is ificant stress in the life of one or both partners.

A large proportion of abusive incidents occur when partners are drunk or high. Footnote 42 Use of drugs and alcohol seems to reduce inhibitions to use violence, but it does not cause people to be violent. Again, these feelings do not excuse or explain the use of violence; they co-occur and are often used as justifications by the abuser. Peer-related Factors: Peers can influence the use of violence within a relationship and determine whether people stay with violent partners. For men and boys, having peers who use violence is a predictor of their using violence.

Footnote 44 These peers provide support and justification for violent and controlling behaviour. Footnote 45 Female adolescents are also influenced by peers who use dating violence. For women, having peers who are victims of dating violence predicts a greater likelihood of their perpetrating it themselves. Social Factors: Ultimately, the causes of dating violence are also rooted in our society and its norms and value systems.

Footnote 47 Gender roles are particularly important. Some researchers believe that couple violence is rooted in gender inequality. These are linked to what we believe are appropriate roles and behaviours for men and women. Our social understanding of violence, including how and when we should use it, is also important.

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Footnote 50 While most people condemn the use of violence in general, some advocate its use in particular situations. While there are many similarities between the dating violence experienced by adults and that experienced by young people, the latter face unique risks. Dating violence among young people should be taken seriously by those who are most likely to know about it — other young people.

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Peers are particularly important because most young people experiencing dating violence go to their friends for advice and support. Footnote 53 When peers label the behaviour as abusive and wrong, young people are more likely to seek help. However, peers may also be supportive of the use of violence. This can increase the risk that the violence will continue and makes it imperative that young people be educated about the consequences of dating violence.

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Young people who are aware of dating violence should not respond by blaming the victim or by downplaying the harm and the risks. Rather, they should acknowledge that the violence is a problem and encourage the victims to seek help in order to protect themselves.

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