Dating violence can happen to anyone - on a date or in an intimate, romantic, or sexual relationship. It can look like many different things. If you think you might be in an abusive relationship with someone you are dating, explore this section for information and resources.
Dating violence is when people abuse or try to control someone they are dating or in a relationship with. It can include verbal, emotional, physical, sexual, financial or spiritual abuse. Dating violence can happen on a first date, in a casual relationship, or after months of committed dating. It may take place years into a relationship or after it has ended.
Healthy Versus Unhealthy Relationships
People in healthy relationships trust and respect each other. They communicate and make decisions together. A relationship is unhealthy when a partner becomes controlling or doesn’t respect your limits and boundaries. Unhealthy relationships can become violent or abusive. If you don’t feel safe with an intimate, romantic or sexual partner, or if that person hurts you, you may be experiencing violence or abuse. Dating violence and abuse can take many forms, and it may be hard to recognize if you aren’t being physically abused.
Learn more about sexual safety here.
Everyone responds to dating violence and abuse differently. There is no right way to react or feel.
Common ways to respond are:
- Thinking you deserve the abuse
- Worrying about upsetting your partner
- Feeling alone or unsafe
- Spending less time with loved ones, or doing things you used to enjoy
- Apologizing for or playing down your partner’s behaviour
- Finding it difficult to be physically or emotionally intimate
Signs of Risk
Dating violence can happen to anyone, and it is not your fault. Your partner may promise to change, and you may believe or hope that they will change. But dating violence often gets worse over time or when you try to change the relationship (or break up). You may be at risk of future violence if your partner:
- Threatens to hurt you (or your family, friends or pets)
- Becomes aggressive more often or more intensely
- Forces unwanted sexual contact (sexual assault)
- Follows, stalks or harasses you
- Strangles or chokes you
- Was violent or abusive in the past
- Has a history of alcohol or substance abuse
- Threatens or tries to hurt themselves
Creating a Safety Plan
If you notice any of these signs or feel unsafe, it is important to make a safety plan – even if you decide to stay with an abusive partner.
A safety plan is a list of actions you can take to protect yourself from harm. You know your situation best and there are support workers who can help you to be safer. Here are some ways to start:
- Tell a trusted friend or adult about the abuse (like a parent, teacher, or counsellor).
Get tips for talking to someone here.
- Come up with a code word that will let people you trust know when to call 9-1-1
- Find ways that you can get out of your home, school, or work safely in an emergency
- Plan where you will go in an emergency (like a trusted friend’s house)
- Plan how you will get there safely if you need to leave in a hurry
Keep these items in a safe place or with a trusted friend in case you need to leave quickly:
- Your ID (identification like a driver’s license, healthcare card, or passport)
- Clothing and toiletries
- Any medications you need
- A list of phone numbers you can call for help (trusted adults, support services, police) – write these on paper in case you can’t use your cell phone
- An extra phone charger
- A photo of the person who hurt you
In addition to a safety plan, there are a number of other ways to get support if you are experiencing dating violence.
Want to explore and learn more? Here are a couple options that will help you.