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Dating abuse hotline: 866-331-9474

Dating abuse affects teens & young adults every day. It can take many forms and often goes unreported.

We recognize that dating abuse knows no boundaries and that both men and women can be both perpetrators and victims of abuse. However, the vast majority of reported dating abuse is men as perpetrators and women as victims–for this reason, the victim will often be refered to as “she” on this website.

Facts about dating abuse

  • 1 in 3 young people experience dating abuse during their teenage years.
  • Young women, ages 16 to 24, experience the highest rates of relationship violence, almost triple the national average.
  • 1 in 5 college students report dating violence by a current partner
  • Only 50% of dating abuse victims report the abuse to someone else; of those who do report, 88% tell a friend

Dating abuse can take many forms

Physical Abuse Emotional Abuse Sexual Abuse
Hitting Name-calling Sexual touching
Kicking Belittling Sexual comments
Slapping Isolating Sexual threats
Punching Intimidating Coerced sex
Grabbing Threatening Rape
Shoving Bullying

Learn about stalking

Dating abuse can have serious effects

  • Physical harm
  • Isolation
  • Sadness
  • Eating disorders
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

The Cycle of Abuse

Calling dating violence a pattern doesn’t mean the first instance of abuse is not dating violence. It just recognizes that dating violence usually involves a series of abusive behaviors over a course of time. Here is a model of how it works:

Every relationship is different, but the one thing that is common to most abusive dating relationships is that the violence escalates over time and becomes more and more dangerous for the young victim.

Abusive relationships aren’t always bad all of the time. Generally, there is a pattern that abusive relationships follow (also sometimes referred to as a cycle or wave).

The first part of the pattern is the honeymoon stage. During this stage, being with a significant other seems like the best thing in the world; the partner is kind, loving, and thoughtful.

Next is the tension-building stage. During this stage, an abusive partner will begin to engage in small abusive tactics such as name-calling or dictating who the partner should or should not hang out with. Sometimes, an abuser will apologize for the abusive behavior and the relationship can return to the honeymoon stage, where everything can feel “back to normal” until it enters into the tension-building stage again. This is usually the longest stage, because it is building up to the final and most dangerous stage.

Last is the violence stage, or sometimes it is called the explosion stage. During this stage, the abusive partner literally explodes in an act of violence or abuse that physically or emotionally harms a partner. This is typically the shortest stage, and the most dangerous, because the abused partner could end up with serious injuries, physical and emotional.

After the violence/explosion stage, the partner will likely apologize and promise never to abuse the partner again. If the partner stays in the relationship and forgives the abuser, the relationship cycles back into the honeymoon stage, until the tension begins to build again.

Warning Signs

Here are some signs you might notice if someone is experiencing dating abuse. Remember, just because you see one sign does not necessarily mean it is an abusive relationship; but if you think the relationship is headed that way, the time to talk to is now.

  • She gives up hobbies or other activities she once enjoyed.
  • Once a straight-A student, his grades start slipping.
  • You see changes in mood or personality.
  • You see signs of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.
  • He is worried about making his girlfriend jealous.
  • She withdraws from friends or family and spends all her time with her boyfriend.
  • Her boyfriend controls how she dresses, behaves and who she can hang out with.
  • His girlfriend is jealous when anyone else pays attention to him, especially other girls.
  • You see her boyfriend violently lose his temper, striking or breaking objects.
  • He laughs off her violent behavior as a joke, or makes excuses for the way she acts.
  • She has unexplained injuries, or her explanations don’t make sense.
  • She calls him names and puts him down in public.


  • U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2000). Special Report: Intimate Partner Violence
  • Carolyn Tucker Halpern, Ph.D. et al.. (2001). Partner Violence Among Adolescents in Opposite-Sex Romantic Relationships: Findings From the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. American Journal of Public Health.
  • C. Sellers and M. Bromley. (1996). Violence Behavior in College Student Dating Relationships. Journal of Contemporary Justice.

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