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Recognizing Dating Violence

“Did you swipe right?”

“Are you two hanging out?”

“Hooking up?”

The road to romance is full of swipes, texts, and turns. Navigating the dating world can be challenging especially for those exploring relationships for the first time.

Some people learn about relationships from their families, friends, from TV or at school, though not everyone has the tools they need to enjoy a healthy love life. No matter if you have had 20 dating partners or none, it’s always good to know the difference between a healthy relationship and an abusive one. So, what do we need to know about relationships and dating violence?

What is a healthy relationship?

Let’s start with the basics – relationships are not always easy.

One minute it can seem like the person you’re dating is perfect, and the next minute, it can seem like your relationship is falling apart. However, even with all of the ups-and-downs, dating is a great way to learn more about yourself, what you’re looking for in a relationship and in a romantic partner. In a relationship, you may experience new feelings and emotions.

A healthy relationship requires communication, honesty, trust, and respect from each partner. Equality and balance go hand-in-hand in a healthy relationship, where each dating partner recognizes and supports the other’s choices, individuality and beliefs.

In a healthy relationship, both partners take responsibility for their own happiness, never expecting their partner to make them happy.

So, how do you know if your relationship is healthy? All relationships exist on what we call the Relationship Spectrum. Each person’s behaviors range from healthy to abusive with unhealthy somewhere in the middle on this spectrum.

What is dating violence?

Teen dating violence is relationship abuse that takes place between teens and young adults. Dating violence is defined when one dating partner uses a pattern of abusive behavior or mistreatment toward their partner to manipulate or control them.

Similar to domestic violence, dating violence can involve one or more types of abuse. It can include physical abuse, such as slapping, kicking, strangling or punching. Some abusive partners may use emotional abuse to hurt their partners. This can include name-calling or using slurs or hurtful stereotypes (“you drunk Native” or “dirty squaw”) to put you down.

Emotional abuse can include when a dating partner isolates you from family or friends or makes all of the decisions in the relationship. They may even blame you for their abusive behavior or deny it completely, a tactic called gaslighting.

Cultural and spiritual abuse can be some of the most harmful forms of dating violence. This can look like when a romantic partner criticizes or punishes you for your cultural traditions or beliefs, tells you that you’re “too Indian” or “not Native enough,” or makes jokes about your blood quantum or tribe.

Some abusive relationships can include sexual abuse. This can look like when your partner pressures you to have sex or demands that you share sexually explicit photos or videos with them. Anytime a dating partner forces you into sexual activities without your consent, that is sexual assault, and it is never okay.

In some relationships, social media is being used to hurt dating partners online. The signs of digital abuse can include when a partner tags you in humiliating photos, reveals private or embarrassing information about you, or tracks where you go and what you do online.

Some abusive partners may even tell you who you can or cannot be friends with on Facebook or other accounts, or demand to know your social media or phone passwords. An abusive partner may also use their cell phones to repeatedly call, text, or leave messages just to “check in” – all of which are types of digital abuse.

Reaching out for help

If any of these abusive red flags stand out to you, know that you are not alone. Millions of young adults are exploring relationships and dating just like you. Many teens have faced relationship abuse.

When you are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, you may find yourself feeling anxious, depressed, fearful, guilty or ashamed. What’s important to remember is that you always have the strength of your ancestors behind you. If you are being hurt by your partner, talk to a friend or relative you can trust about what’s happening in your relationship.

Your relatives at the StrongHearts Native Helpline are here for you, too. If you are concerned about your relationship or know someone who is in an abusive relationship, you can reach out to us to speak with an advocate, anonymously and confidentially. It’s okay to stand up for what’s right.

StrongHearts Native Helpline is a safe place to share your story – free of negativity or judgment.

Remember, you are sacred. You are valued, and we need you here. You deserve a healthy relationship, where you feel safe and loved.

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Dating should be full of new experiences that leave you feeling good about yourself and your partner.