Youth Dating Violence Prevention 101

What Everyone Needs to Know

What is Youth Dating Violence (YDV)?

Youth Dating Violence at a Glance

  • Youth dating violence, or YDV for short, is aggressive, violent, threatening, and/or manipulative behaviour from a partner in a romantic or sexual relationship. YDV puts adolescents at risk for a wide number of physical, mental, and social health problems.
  • The effects of YDV may be both immediate and long-lasting throughout development.
  • Involvement in YDV during adolescence puts individuals at risk of involvement in future relationship violence.
  • Very few adolescents who experience YDV reach out to teachers, health care practitioners, or other adults who can help.
  • Youth may be more likely to communicate with adults about their dating relationships if those adults have received training about YDV.

The Types and Presentation of Youth Dating Violence

  • Relationships are on a continuum from healthy to unhealthy to abusive. Unhealthy relationship behaviours may not directly harm or infringe on a partner’s rights, while abusive behaviours tend to involve aggression, threats, manipulation, and coercion.
  • Considerations about adolescent relationships:
    • Romantic dating relationships generally increase during adolescence, becoming common by age 15.
      • Dating relationships (and dating violence) can start as early as 6th grade.
    • Adolescent dating relationships have unique characteristics compared to adult ones.
      • For example, non-monogamous partnerships, casual relationships, and high use of social media for relationships are more common among adolescent relationships.
    • Over the course of adolescence, there are many changes in attitudes, beliefs, norms, and overall identity that influence relationships.
  • Recap: Dating violence is aggressive, violent, threatening, and/or manipulative behaviour from a partner.
  • These are the types:
    • Physical: Use or threat of physical force
      • Examples: Hitting, kicking, shoving, attacking with a weapon
    • Sexual: Limiting individual’s sexual agency
      • Examples: Unwanted sexual contact (kissing, touching), forced sex, sexual coercion, restricting access to birth control (removes agency from own sexual health)
    • Emotional & Psychological: Manipulation, controlling partner’s behaviour & agency, and undermining/belittling
      • Examples: Insulting, threatening, monitoring, isolating, restricting access to friends, and stalking
    • Cyber: Using technology to engage in dating violence
      • Examples: Monitoring (e.g. using social media), threatening or harassing online, sexting coercion
  • Some acts of violence may be confusing to classify, such as using technology to sexually abuse — the types are a guideline to understand the many ways in which dating violence can occur.
  • When violence is used to control a partner, this is called coercive control and is especially harmful.
  • Individuals may and often do perpetrate more than one type of dating violence within an abusive relationship.

Dating violence is aggressive, violent, threatening, and/or manipulative behaviour from a partner.

Cyber Dating Violence

  • Almost all adolescents use social media and the internet. While this has many positives, it also presents a new context for bullying and dating violence.
    • A national survey conducted in 2013 estimated that nearly every youth aged 15 to 24 uses the internet daily.
    • Over one quarter of students in Grade 4 have a personal phone, with this number growing up to 85% in Grade 11.
  • Examples of cyber dating violence include:
    • Controlling and monitoring social media presence, including friends and content
    • Using social media (e.g., insulting public posts, exclusion), texts, or messages online to insult or belittle
    • Sending unwanted explicit pictures and videos and/or demanding partner to send them (this is often illegal)
    • Stealing or insisting on password access
    • Constantly texting and demanding to know where partner is/what partner is doing
    • Looking through partner’s phone frequently and checking on activity
    • Using any kind of technology to monitor activity or location without consent
  • Both youth and the adults in their lives need to be aware of cyber dating violence and to emphasize the importance of safe practices when using technology.