Whether you are a teen or adult, and no matter if you are a single person trying to meet people out at bars/ date online, have just started dating a new guy or girl, or are someone in a long-term committed relationship or marriage, it is really important to take care of yourself by knowing if you are safe with the man or woman you have chosen to be with. In light of the recent video that just became public of NFL star Ray Rice being violent with his then fiancé, now wife, a lot of questions come in to play.

-Is this type of violence common in relationships?
Unfortunately, Yes.
1200 deaths every year from DV (domestic violence)
320,000 doctors visits a year from violence in relationships
1 in 5 men report having committed DV against their partners (and that is just those who are willing to admit it.

-How do I know if he or she is the type to hurt me?
There are identifying characteristics of Perpetrators of DV. Are you constantly walking on eggshells? Are you afraid of them? Are they Controlling, Jealous, have Angry outbursts, a hot temper, aggressive, insomnia, history of witnessing violence, and abuse substances. Also someone who threatens to leave you, plays mind games, puts you down, blames you for everything wrong in the relationship, and never takes any responsibility. All victims who have experienced DV report that they experienced psychological maltreatment by the abusive partner before or along with the DV such as: being told they are worthless, unloveable, or would not be able to find anyone if they leave the partner. They report the relationship is unstable, chaotic, and unpredictable. Question: Do you feel like you are losing part of yourself? Do you feel that you have lost confidence in who you are? If someone becomes so insistent that you no longer get to have an opinion, this is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. *Remember that if your relationship is new, your partner is on their best behavior. I know it’s easy to go fast when you think you are falling in love, but I always recommend to be cautious and take your time. If this person is “forever,” then you have plenty of time to let their true colors shine and see how they really are in times of conflict.

-How do I pick someone to be with who will be good to me? Choose to be with someone who accepts you, who trusts you, and lets you be you without telling you or making you feel like you are not good enough. Be with someone who controls their temper, and takes responsibility for the times he or she is in the wrong. Someone who communicates as a way to resolve issues rather than uses aggression. See how he treats other friends and family members as well as how he talks about them when they are not around; it can be a window into how he might talk about you. *AGAIN I WILL REPEAT: Remember that if your relationship is new, your partner is on their best behavior. I know it’s easy to go fast when you think you are falling in love, but I always recommend to be cautious and take your time. If this person is “forever,” then you have plenty of time to let their true colors shine and see how they really are in times of conflict.

-They promised it would never happen again? Will it?
Probably. Statistics show reoccurrence is common. In fact most women who decide to stay and work things out or just feel that they cannot leave their violent partner experience violence 5 more times before finally leaving. They might feel that it wasn’t that bad. OR They really are sorry. He or She has been so nice since it happened. But this is a cycle that is common. 1) Honeymoon phase 2) Problems start 3) Escalation and violence 4) Repentance and… you guessed it… Honeymoon phase again. Seeing the cycle?
More often than not, if a person is able to have an angry enough outburst to hit, grab, push, punch, kick, choke, or threaten once, he or she is likely to have that temper with different people past, present, and future. Long term and intense therapeutic work are needed to change the kind of thought processes, patterned behavior, conflict resolution styles, and often the substance abuse issues that are associated with perpetrators of violence.

-Why do some people stay even after violence occurs?
This is a controversial topic. Some might want to look at the victims and say, “well, if you don’t leave and you know they can be this way, well then you deserve it.” WRONG! That is the worst thing you can do to empower a person to get out of the situation. That is like telling a victim of sexual assault, “well, you wore a skirt or a shirt with cleavage, so you were asking for it.” This does not justify the action of violence. We need to keep the blame where the fault in misbehaving and violence lies. We don’t want to bring shame to those who are experiencing these painful and scary moments. I intend not to bring shame, but awareness to women or men who may be victims of partner violence. Many victims of relationship violence have actually attempted to leave their abusive situations – 5 times in fact- which is the average number of attempts before successful permanent separation from an abusive partner. These are just a few reasons why a victim stays in a relationship:

• Economic dependency
• They still love the person
• Fear of loneliness
• They believe they were at fault
• Lack of support
• Previous failed efforts
• Pressure from husband/kids
• Children’s development
• Children’s custody
• They get used to it
• Fearful for safety
• Religion
• Lack of confidence
• Marital commitment
• The abuser apologizes and then there is a honeymoon phase with gifts, kind words, and love is reignited.

But over time there are such negative affects on the victim personally, enabling the perpetrators behavior to act again, and not too mention the awful negative impact on children.

So How do I get out?
-Call The National Domestic Violence Hotline:
1(800) 799-SAFE (7233)
-Find a therapist: there are some that take Insurance, use a sliding scale, or will even do pro bono if it’s for someone’s safety.
– Find a shelter nearby

For Battered Victims, Deciding to Leave Requires:
• A change in thinking and realizing:
1) this is an unhealthy relationship
2) real love does not include violence
3) It will NOT improve (despite promises)
4) Wellbeing on children – how violence affects them
5) abandoning the dream of the “Forever” ideal relationship
• Support network- being vulnerable enough to let people know what’s happening
• Having a Safe place to go to
• Distance/cutoff from abuser

“Well I am just a teen, or a single adult and now afraid after all you have told me. What are some Tips for safe dating ?

• Go out in Groups, Use the buddy system.
• Make sure you meet in a public place the first time
• Or second time, or third time, etc. until you feel comfortable
• Watch your drink, and give it to a friend you trust if you must go to the ladies room
• Have a friend call and check in, and have a “danger” word that you can say on the phone under the radar so your friend will know if you need help
• Let someone know where you are going
• Go slow. Let them earn your trust in making you feel safe to offer more of yourself. Set your boundaries where you are comfortable. If you can’t talk about Safe Sex comfortably with your partner, You probably shouldn’t be having Sex in the first place.
• Pepper Spray is a Thing if needed.
• Take a self defense class.
• For online dating: don’t give out all of your personal info, but don’t lie either about who you are, or about your age.
• At the first sign that you feel afraid, find someone safe and make sure they know you are standing your ground to not be around someone who makes you feel unsafe.
• MOST IMPORTANTLY: Trust your gut! If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

(or hers).