When violence in intimate relationships began to be recognized as pervasive, several other rediscov- eries became inevitable. First, battering can emerge during dating and courtship, when the ties that bind the couple are not so strong. Second, violence by adolescents can be directed at their parents. Third, adults can become physically and psychologically abusive toward frail, elderly people, including their closest relatives. Finally, partner abuse is not limited to heterosexual couples; violence can also break out in intimate relations between members of the same sex.

Dating Violence

A high school senior begins dating a classmate who is known to have a bad temper. At first, she is so thrilled to have a boyfriend who seems to really care for her that it doesn’t bother her that he constantly checks up on her and gets angry when she spends time with other friends. But one night, when she announces she is going away for the weekend with her

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friends, he flies into a rage, grabs her by the arm, and throws her against a wall. He warns her never to make arrangements without his permission. She is stunned and terrified to find out he is so controlling. (Joyce, 2004)

After the plight of battered women became well known, along with the problem of acquaintance and date rape (see the next chapter), a growing num- ber of researchers explored the phenomenon of physical violence during courtship (see Makepeace, 1981; Laner and Thompson, 1982; Allbritten and Allbritten, 1985; Stets and Pirog-Good, 1987; Demarais, 1992; Follingstad et al., 1992; O’Keefe and Trester, 1998; and Joyce, 2004). Dating violence can have a significant impact on a student’s mental and physical health as well as performance in school (see Coker et al., 2014).

Incidence estimates about this kind of intimate partner violence include the survey finding that about 10 percent of students nationwide report that they were physically hurt (such as being slapped or hit on purpose) by a boyfriend or girl- friend in the past 12 months (CDC, 2010). A large scale survey of around 14,000 high school students yielded slightly higher estimates. About 13 percent of the teenage respondents disclosed that they had been hit, slapped, or otherwise physically hurt on purpose during their partner over the past year; girls were as likely as boys to have experienced these assaults (Coker et al., 2014). As for prevalence estimates, from 20 percent to 33 percent of teen- agers report that they have experienced violence in a dating relationship, and between 50 percent and 80 percent say that they know others who were caught up in dating violence, according to one study (NCVC, 2011a). Another survey-based study yielded lower prevalence rates of about 9 per- cent for both male and female high school students, with no appreciable changes over a 12-year period ending in 2011 (Rothman and Xuan, 2014).

As for college students, the estimated propor- tion who have experienced dating violence ranges from 10 percent to 50 percent. Besides physical injuries, the negative consequences of these unhealthy relationships include depression, anxiety,

and loss of self-esteem. Dating violence appears to be correlated with heavy drinking, drug use, sexual risk taking, and academic disengagement. (absen- teeism, dropping classes, failing courses, and with- drawing from school) (Kaukinen, 2014).

Maximalists could point out that the NCVS has established over the years that teenagers in general are less likely to report any category of crimes com- mitted against them, so dating violence is surely severely underreported. Most teens tell no one; if they do talk about the incident, they are more inclined to share their secrets with a peer than with a parent (see Joyce, 2004). Minimalists could argue that some studies of “unhealthy” relationships and dating “abuse” use definitions that include acts that do not qualify as criminal or delinquent behav- ior. Abuse is sometimes broadly defined as having non-criminal verbal and emotional/psychological dimensions and could take the form of jealous, pos- sessive, bullying, and domineering behaviors, such as telling a partner what to wear, who to interact with, and to acquiesce to unwanted sexual acts. Some recent studies of abuse even count electronic “stalking” (examined in Chapter 11) in the form of unwelcomed phone calls, texts and photos (see CDC, 2010; NCVC, 2011a; Office on Women’s Health, 2011; Texas Advocacy Project, 2011; also see Coker et al., 2014).

Courtship is considered to be the training ground for marriage, so controlling behaviors (like slapping, grabbing, shaking, kicking, choking, threat- ening with a weapon, and throwing things) that begin during dating may persist, and perhaps escalate, after a couple weds. But in several crucial ways, vio- lence during courtship differs from violence within marriage. First of all, less force is used over shorter periods of time. Second, young women are more likely to initiate violence against their dates/boy- friends/fiancés than wives are against their husbands. Perhaps the young women feel they can assert them- selves more freely because they are not trapped in a day-after-day cohabitation situation and can break off the relationship if the spiral of violence gets out of hand. Of course, much of the physical force exerted by females can, in all fairness, be classified as examples of fighting back—acts of immediate


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self-defense, of retaliation for earlier male aggression, or even as preemptive strikes to forestall impending assaults (see Langhinrichsen-Rohling, 2005).

Some possible signs that a teenager might be subjected to dating violence include emotional out- bursts, mood swings, personality changes, unex- plained scratches and bruises, failing grades, truancy, dropping out of high school, substance abuse and heavy drinking, and an unwanted pregnancy. Teen- age girls often believe that abuse is normal because their friends experience it too; their boyfriend’s con- trolling behaviors and use of force is actually an expression of romantic interest; there is no one they can turn to for help; and they must solve their relationship problems on their own (ACADV, 2011). Victims often blame themselves and feel anx- ious, angry, depressed, isolated, confused, helpless, humiliated, and frightened about an escalation in the use of force (NCVC, 2011a).

When young women are seriously harmed, once again the question arises, “Why does she stay?” Clearly, some reasons married women cite as most important do not apply to dating: remain- ing together for the sake of the children, depending on the husband financially, or believing that a failed marriage is shameful and divorce is wrong. So other explanations need to be tested. Perhaps some young women tolerate abuse because rules and behavioral limits in romantic relationships currently are in a state of flux as traditional norms are challenged and rejected. Other women battered during court- ship may interpret fits of jealous rage as signs of his intense feelings and deep devotion. Still others may consider violence within intimate relationships to be acceptable because they were mistreated as chil- dren or their parents behaved abusively toward each other. A small percentage might even feel comfort- able being dominated by a “virile” young man.

Even when the female is the aggressor and the male is the target, or when mutual combat breaks out, the adversaries are not evenly matched, and it is not a fair fight. Young men have several advantages—larger size, greater strength, and better hand-to-hand combat skills—that protect them from serious harm and endanger their girlfriends’ well-being. Because male-initiated violence is

more frequent and more serious, it is not the female’s problem alone. Prevention and education programs involving discussions, role playing, and decision-making exercises are presented in high schools and teen centers. Serious incidents caused by dysfunctional behaviors lead to group counseling for troubled couples and ultimately problems with the authorities for the aggressors (see Makepeace, 1981; Laner and Thompson, 1982; Allbritten and Allbritten, 1985; Stets and Pirog-Good, 1987; Demaris, 1992; Follingstad et al., 1992; O’Keefe and Trester, 1998; Joyce, 2004; and Cornelius and Ressiguie, 2007).

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