For Adults Supporting Teens

Dating violence is a pattern of behaviours one person uses to gain and maintain power and control over their dating partner. It is when one person chooses to control the relationship through the use of force, intimidation, or fear. Because this often involves a pattern of behaviour, the abuse happens again and again and can get more violent over time. However, even a one-time incident of dating violence is not okay. It affects people regardless of race, class, gender, or sexual orientation. Dating violence can look different in each relationship.

Many people assume abuse means that physical violence is happening, but that’s not always the case. Abuse comes in many forms. Violent words and actions are tools an abusive partner can use to gain and maintain power and control over their dating partner, resulting in emotional abuse and manipulation.


Verbal Abuse

  • Calling their partner names, insulting them, and putting them down
  • Telling their partner what to wear, what to do, and what not to wear and do
  • Always demanding to know who the partner is with and where they are
  • Threatening to hurt their partner

Emotional Abuse

  • Going through their partner’s possessions without their permission
  • Acting jealous
  • Not letting their partner spend time with friends and family
  • Blaming their partner for everything
  • Accusing their partner of cheating on them

Verbal abuse and emotional abuse often lead to physical violence. Just because a relationship is not physically violent does not mean that it is a healthy relationship.

Physical Abuse

  • Shaking, grabbing
  • Pulling hair
  • Slapping, punching, and kicking
  • Using objects or weapons to hurt their partner
  • Choking, strangling

Sexual Abuse

  • Touching or kissing when their partner does not want to
  • Pressuring or forcing their partner to have sex or do other sexual things
  • Preventing the use of birth control

Financial Abuse

  • Forbidding their partner to work
  • Refusing to work or financially contribute to activities
  • Sabotaging work or employment opportunities
  • Controlling how their partner’s money is spent
  • Demanding their partner give them all of their allowance, lunch money, pay
  • Stealing their partner’s identity or debit/credit cards

Technology-Facilitated Violence / Digital Dating Violence

  • Calling, texting, or emailing constantly
  • Telling their partner who they can or can’t be friends with or follow on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and other sites
  • Sending negative, insulting, or threatening emails, Facebook messages, tweets, DMs, or other messages online
  • Using sites like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and others to keep constant tabs on their partner
  • Putting their partner down in their status updates
  • Sending unwanted, explicit pictures and/or demanding their partner send some in return
  • Pressuring their partner to send explicit videos or texts
  • Insisting on being given passwords, stealing passwords, or manipulating their partner into providing them
  • Constantly texting and making them feel like they can’t be separated from their phone for fear of disappointing them or of being threatened or punished
  • Looking through their partner’s phone frequently, checking pictures, texts, and outgoing calls
  • Tagging their partner negatively in pictures on Instagram, Tumblr, etc.
  • Using any kind of technology (such as spyware or GPS in a car or settings on a phone) to monitor the whereabouts of their partner

For more information, see What Is Teen Digital Dating Violence?

Every relationship is different, but the things that unhealthy and abusive relationships have in common are issues of manipulation, power, and control. Each type of abuse is serious and no one deserves to experience abuse of any kind.

Digital Dating Violence is part of a continuum of violence that can be both online and in-person. If you or someone you know is experiencing digital dating violence, you are not alone. Encourage them to chat with a trusted adult, connect with the Kids Help Phone to create a safety plan, or you can use to find a shelter/transition house near you to discuss options and create a safety plan. You don’t need to stay in a shelter to access free, confidential services and support.

Adapted with permission from BCSTH’s Technology Safety project, based on their resource What is Teen Dating Violence?

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