Dating Violence: How To Spot It And What To Do

Are you a college student concerned that a friend of yours might be a victim of dating violence? Maybe you just have the sense that things aren't quite right, but you aren't sure whether or not to talk to your friend about it. Perhaps you have never known someone who is being physically abused, and wonder whether you might be jumping to the wrong conclusion. Because 57% of those who have experienced violence in a dating relationship report that it happened during their college years, you may be right to feel concerned. In fact, 43% of women who date in college report being abused in one or more ways. Here's how to spot possible dating violence, and what you can do to help.

Signs of abuse

If you notice one or more of the following signs of dating violence while spending time with your friend, there indeed may be danger in the relationship:

  • anxiety about being late for or missing dates with partner

  • preoccupation with checking cell phone for messages, maybe nervously stating partner gets "upset" when messages aren't returned right away

  • aggression or displays of temper by partner are dismissed with statements such as, "It's my fault; I made him/her mad"

  • sharp withdrawal from your social circle to isolate with partner, explaining, "He/she just doesn't like my friends," or, "He/she just wants me all to him/herself"

  • depression evidenced by frequent crying, under/overeating, missing classes or failing tests, negative self-statements

  • physical injuries such as bruises or cuts that are not easily explained

How to help

If you believe that your friend is involved in a relationship marked by violence, here are some practical things you can do to help.

  • Stay involved. Even if your friend doesn't return messages or declines social invitations, don't give up. Check in once a week to let your friend know you miss getting together. When your friend hits a crisis, you may just be the one to whom he/she reaches out for help.

  • Ask about abuse. Remember, your friend isn't likely to admit that something is wrong—but that doesn't mean you shouldn't ask. By asking whether abuse is occurring, you make your friend aware that what's happening isn't healthy or normal.

  • Talk to someone. Dating violence isn't something you can stop on your own. Talk to a campus counselor about the situation or call a community helpline. Communicate with a domestic violence attorney, such as through Find out what resources are available for victims in your area, and give a list of phone numbers to your friend.

Dating violence is a serious issue on today's college campuses. Watching for this problem among your friends and knowing what to do if you detect it means you just may make an enormous difference in your circle of friends.