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Relationships: healthy, unhealthy, and abusive

As we wrap up national stalking awareness month and move onto teen dating violence awareness month, it is important to understand that the two often come hand in hand. It has been found that 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men in the US have been stalked in their lifetime. Of these individuals, 60.8% of females and 43.5% males report being stalked by a current or former intimate partner (ncadv.org). Stalking can be an indicator or red flag that a relationship is abusive.

So what does dating abuse look like? What is the difference between an unhealthy relationship vs. an abusive one? First off, it is important to understand that teenagers and young adults experience the exact same types of abuse that adults do. An unhealthy relationship consists of: not communicating, disrespecting each other, not trusting, dishonesty, co-dependency, pressure to have sex, ignoring a partner’s boundaries, and financial inequality. On the other hand, an abusive relationship consists of: hurtful or demeaning communication, mistreating, accusations of cheating, controlling behavior, isolating behavior, forced sexual activity, financial control, manipulative parenting, and/or physical abuse. All relationships exist on a spectrum from healthy to abusive, and unhealthy is in between those. Being able to tell the difference between healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships can be difficult. And if you are unsure where your relationship falls and want more clarification, an advocate can help you. The main difference between a toxic or unhealthy relationship and an abusive one, is that one involves a cycle of equal action/reaction and the other involves one person trying to maintain power and control. 

Dating abuse can include: physical abuse, verbal or emotional abuse, sexual abuse, digital abuse, stalking, and/or financial abuse. The dynamics of dating abuse and its cycle of power and control are similar to those of adult domestic abuse. However, the challenges in addressing dating abuse and seeking and providing services to these individuals can be difficult. The first step towards addressing it, is to simply start talking. Bring awareness to the prevalence of dating violence and what the abuse looks like. Create a safe space and open up the dialogue about healthy relationships and what they look like. Starting conversations like these with teens can be difficult, but it is the right time to encourage healthy relationships and prevent patterns of dating violence that can progress into adulthood.