What is Dating Violence in the Age of the “Hook Up” culture?

Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence in the country—almost three times greater than the national average. With 1 and 3 adolescents experiencing abuse in a dating relationship and 43% of dating college women experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors, abuse is no rare occurrence in individual’s lives.

            However, when college students were asked on how they handle this reality, 57% say dating abuse is difficult to identify and 58% say they don’t know how to help someone who is experiencing this. The lack of awareness does not stop there. 81% of parents believe teen-dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue.[1]

            In light of the lack of awareness and understanding around dating abuse, it is no surprise that 67% of teens in an abusive relationships never tell anyone. Dating violence penetrates the lives of millions of people a year, yet it continues to remain in the shadows. We must ask ourselves how is this possible? Why do so many people feel inadequate to talk about something that is present in our schools, our friend’s lives, our family’s lives or possibly our own life?

            Amongst several possible reasons for the silence—some being traditional gender role expectations, peer pressure, shame, or fear; another reason is the blurred dating lines that we so often are faced with. One definition of dating is “two people in an intimate relationship.”[2] Dating today can be serious or casual, straight or gay, committed or open, short-term or long-term. Since “Dating” means different things to different people, it vital to remember that dating abuse can occur within all kinds of intimate relationships—even if it is casual and you are only “hooking up.”


            Our media constantly conveys the dating process today to have blurred lines—many adolescents find their relationships between being “Facebook official” (meaning they are committed enough to make it public) and just “hooking up” (meaning its casual and possibly open). Justin Bieber’s new hit song “What Do You Mean,” illuminates the confusion many face regarding what a partner wants in a relationship. The reason it is essential to recognize the dating culture today to be one that is not always “dating or single,” is because for many abuse can still happen in those “blurred dating lines.”

            If the definition of dating is more fluid today, then the definition and awareness of Dating Violence must validate and address individuals who experience abuse in the “blurred dating lines.” No matter what your Facebook relationship status states, love is respect and should not hurt. If something makes you feel uncomfortable, threatened or scared, it is possible that you could be experiencing the warning signs of abuse. The last place dating violence belongs is in the shadows. The first step for us all to take is recognizing the signs and speaking about this prevalent issue. 


For more information on types of dating abuse visit: http://www.loveisrespect.org/is-this-abuse/types-of-abuse/

[1] http://www.loveisrespect.org/resources/dating-violence-statistics/

[2] http://www.loveisrespect.org/dating-basics/dating-faq/