Following recent events raising awareness of violence against women and in relationships, Life&Style Writer Isabelle Detheridge highlights the issue of dating violence
“It won’t happen again”
“You made me do it”
“It’s because I love you”
Love shouldn’t hurt – that’s the least we expect upon forming a bond with someone we trust.
Whether it’s a bit of fun or something more serious, partners naturally want to feel safe and appreciated by their significant other. Young adults exploring romantic love for the first time want to create happy memories they can look back on with pleasure.
Nowadays, where fewer marriages are taking place due to numerous factors – emancipation of women, changing attitudes towards the tradition of marriage, high divorce rates – dating has experienced an exponential rise in popularity as an alternative to legally binding yourself to another individual.
Dating can be brilliant in ideal circumstances, there’s no dispute about that. But, on the other end of the spectrum, dating abuse can rob individuals of a safe and thriving relationship. The NSPCC reports that one in five teenagers have been physically abused by boyfriends or girlfriends; Women’s Aid state that on average, two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week. This isn’t to say that men get away scot-free from dating violence – in fact, abuse against males can be harder to pinpoint due to the aura of shame surrounding it.
Dating violence can include attacks on your physical, emotional, psychological, and sometimes financial, welfare. Examples can be as simple as telling you what to wear, or giving you backhanded “compliments” based on factors such as gender. More overt manifestations of dating abuse include physical altercations and rape. Abusers seek power and control over their victims and isolating them from the outside world and taking over their lives is their method of achieving this.
Abuse can manifest itself so slowly that victims do not realise it is happening. More worryingly, it can happen through technology as well as face to face in the age we live in. This makes it incredibly difficult to detect from the outside if a relationship shows no visible signs of distress. Simply messaging or Snapchatting someone in a way that makes them uncomfortable is classed as harassment. In a healthy relationship, both partners respect relationship boundaries; dating abuse is a gross violation of this.
Just as you would tell someone if you were being bullied at school or in the workplace, it is important to seek help should you experience any such symptoms in a romantic relationship. Nobody has the right to abuse you, and domestic abuse most often gets worse rather than better with time. The abuser may plead with their victim via public displays of affection or lavish gifts, or promise that they will change their behaviour, but this is only an excuse to continue acting immorally.
Fortunately, there are several professional support networks reachable by victims of dating violence, as well as friends and family. Women’s Aid and Refuge run a free 24-hour helpline that can be used to discuss any concerns callers have; Men’s Advice Line offers support to male victims of dating abuse Monday to Friday. Aside from this, an awareness of the signs of abuse and clear communications with friends and relatives is vital concerning tackling violence in its early stages.
It is just over a week since the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and just over a month since National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, when people wore purple in honour of victims of dating abuse. The colour symbolises peace, courage, survival, honour and a dedication to ending violence which so many individuals will sadly experience in their lifetime.
In taking these opportunities to stand together against dating abuse, we can give a voice to the countless victims and show perpetrators that abuse is not acceptable today, and it will never be justified tomorrow.
Women’s Aid Freephone 24 hr: 0808 2000 247
Men’s Advice Line Freephone Monday-Friday 9am-5pm: 0808 801 0327