Articles for Dating Couples

Everything listed under: abuse

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    8 Warning Signs of Unhealthy Dating Relationships

    Jessica was a junior in college when she started dating Jason. She had her eye on him for a while, thinking he was cute. When he finally asked her out, she was very excited.

    Within a month of their first date, Jessica’s girlfriends complained that she never spent time with them anymore. Her whole world seemed to revolve around Jason. Initially Jessica made excuses, but she finally told them that Jason got jealous and angry when she spent time with them.

    Rather than make him angry, she was willing to give up her time with friends for the sake of the relationship. She loved him.

    Jessica's friends thought Jason was controlling, possessive and had an anger problem. On more than one occasion after one of Jason’s outbursts, friends warned her that the relationship was not healthy and that she needed to end it. She ignored them.

    When she finally broke up with Jason six months later, her friends had moved on and she found herself alone, heartbroken and face to face with the reality that her friends had been right all along.

    Why hadn’t she listened to her friends?

    This common scenario plays out on many high school and college campuses, more so for girls than guys.

    Key findings from a College Dating and Abuse poll conducted in 2011 by Fifth and Pacific Companies (formerly Liz Claiborne) indicated that a significant number of college women are victims of violence and abuse.

    • 52 percent of college women report knowing a friend who has experienced violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, tech, verbal or controlling abuse.

    • 43 percent of dating college women report experiencing some violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, tech, verbal or controlling abuse.

    A 2009 study by the same company among dating high school students found that American teens are experiencing alarmingly high levels of abuse. Furthermore, the economy appears to have made it worse.

    Findings also showed that parents are disturbingly out of touch with the level of teen dating violence and abuse among teens. The large majority of abused teens are not informing parents, and even when they do, most stay in abusive relationships.

    People need to know the red flags of an unhealthy relationship and they need to know how to get out.

    The warning signs include:

    • Checking the other person’s cell phone or email without permission.

    • Constant put-downs.

    • Extreme jealousy, insecurity or anger.

    • Isolation from family or friends.

    • Making false accusations.

    • Physical violence.

    • Possessiveness.

    • Controlling behavior.

    Breaking it off can be complicated, but putting a plan together will help. Asking for help from a trusted person is a sign of strength.

    To make a clean break, move on to a different group of friends; otherwise it might be tempting to fall back into the unhealthiness. Remember, this is a dating relationship, not a marriage. If it isn’t good while you are dating, it won’t get better over time.

    There’s nothing wrong with having great expectations for a relationship. However, if you have to change and sacrifice your friends to make it work, it’s time to move on.

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    Why People Stay in Abusive Relationships

    In 2014, there was enormous outcry over video footage of pro football player Ray Rice knocking his wife Janay unconscious, then dragging her off an elevator. In the midst of the coverage, the Rices appeared together at a press conference, and she clearly seemed to have no intention of leaving him. This set off a whole new barrage on social media asking why in the world she would stay.

    In the U.S., it is estimated that every nine seconds a woman is beaten. Moreover, research indicates that 85 percent of reported cases of domestic violence are by men against women. These relationships usually involve intense jealousy, controlling behavior, denial and blame, intimidation, coercion and threats, and isolation.

    • Approximately 50 percent of men who assault their partners also assault their children.
    • As many as 10 million children witness domestic violence annually.
    • Men and women engage in comparable levels of abuse and control, though women are more likely to use emotional manipulation. In contrast, men are more likely to use sexual coercion and physical dominance. (Statistics from Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network)

    Dr. David M. Allen, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, says it's important to realize that not all abusers were abused as children. And, that many - if not most - people who are abused do not become abusers. However, child abuse is most likely the single largest risk factor – biological, psychological or sociocultural – for later adult abusive behavior.

    According to Allen, significant family dysfunction is almost always present in a repetitive abuser's background. Unfortunately, these dysfunctional patterns rarely stop when abused children grow up.

    Why do people stay?

    Fear, reliance on the abusive partner, pressure and conflicting emotions are all reasons why someone would stay in an abusive relationship.

    “The reason many of these victims stay is because they are brainwashed to believe that the violence is their fault. They may think they cannot survive without their abuser and that they are too stupid, too ugly or too unfit to be a good employee, wife, friend or mother,” says Dr. Charlotte Boatwright, President of the Chattanooga Area Domestic Violence Coalition.

    So, what can you do if you have a friend who is in an abusive situation?

    • Recognize the abuse. Help your friend see that what is happening is not normal. Healthy relationships revolve around mutual respect, trust and consideration for the other person. Intense jealousy and controlling behavior, which could include physical, emotional or sexual abuse are all indicative of an unhealthy relationship.
    • Support your friend’s strength. Acknowledge the things she does to take care of herself.
    • Help your friend with a safety plan. There are resources available in our community to help victims of domestic violence. Express your concern for your friend’s safety and the safety of her children. Encourage her to get help as soon as possible. Give her the phone number to the domestic violence hotline: 423-755-2700. Assure her that when she is ready to leave, you will be there for her.
    • Be a good listener. Empower her through listening. Be nonjudgmental.

    “Never underestimate the power and encouragement of a friend,” Boatwright says. “Sometimes all a victim needs is permission to seek help.”

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    "I Do" is Complicated

    What can you learn from a focus group of millennial women who live with their boyfriends? You can really find out about their relationships, their thoughts about marriage and how they think cohabitation differs from marriage.

    Only one of the six women had ever married. Some had children with their current boyfriend. Others brought children into the relationship. They discussed the following questions, and more.

    Do you believe living together and marriage are pretty much the same thing?

    Most of the women agreed that living together and marriage were practically the same thing. They said it really boiled down to commitment to the relationship. And, they wondered why someone needs a piece of paper to prove their commitment to each other.

    They also wondered if they could make a marriage work. For instance, only one of the women came from an intact family. She said everyone in her family had been successful at marriage so far except her.

    Are there any ways that marriage is different from living together?

    Regarding the differences in cohabitation and marriage, they discussed missing benefits because they weren't legally married, even though they thought of themselves as married. They also said people treated them differently when they discovered they were unmarried.

    The National Center for Family and Marriage Research indicates that 41 percent of cohabitors express pessimism about marriage. More than half (64 percent) of Gen-Xers and millennials agree that living together before marriage may help prevent divorce. 

    Interestingly, only about 35 percent of individuals who married first believe that cohabitation may help prevent breakups.

    If your boyfriend asked you to marry him, would you?

    Surprisingly, all but one woman enthusiastically said yes, despite saying they believed there was really no difference in cohabitation and marriage.

    While these women and many like them believe living together and marriage are basically the same, consider these statistics:

    • The overall rate of violence for cohabiting couples is twice as high as for married couples. Plus, the overall rate for "severe" violence is nearly five times as high, according to the Family Violence Research Program at the University of New Hampshire, the nation's leading institution studying domestic violence.

    • Studies conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health found that women in cohabiting relationships had depression rates nearly five times higher than married women. Those rates were second only to women who were twice-divorced.

    • Children living in households with unrelated adults are nearly 50 times more likely to die of inflicted injuries as children living with two biological parents, according to a study of Missouri data published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    Most of the women in the focus group said they want to avoid the pain of divorce. Unfortunately, many people don't understand that relationship dynamics without relationship structure increases that risk.

    If you're in a serious relationship and wonder if you should take your relationship to the next level, think carefully. Instead of moving in together, consider taking a class that will help you know if you have learned all of the different skills that can help your relationship last a lifetime.

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    What You Need to Know About Sexual Assault

    There has been much conversation lately about the number of people who have experienced sexual assault.

    According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), someone experiences sexual assault in the United States every 98 seconds. Of those victims, 44 percent will be younger than 18, and approximately 80 percent of those same victims will be under 30. Research indicates that a college with a population of 10,000 can have up to 350 sexual assaults annually. And, in 7 out of 10 sexual assaults, the perpetrator knows the victim personally.

    On a positive note, the rate of sexual assault and rape has fallen 63 percent since 1993, from a rate of 4.3 assaults per 1,000 people in 1993, to 1.6 per 1000 in 2015. However, only 6 out of every 1,000 rapists will end up in prison. 

    Many are asking, how do we teach people to protect themselves from sexual assault? And, how do we teach them what respect looks like? These are important questions for sure, especially in light of recent findings in a study by Harvard’s Making Caring Common project. Based on responses from 3,000 young adults and high school students, the lead researcher found it troubling that at least one-third of respondents said:

    • It is rare to see a woman treated in an inappropriately sexualized manner on television;
    • Society has reached a point that there is no more double-standard against women; and
    • Too much attention is being given to the issue of sexual assault.

    What is sexual assault, exactly?

    According to the Department of Justice, sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling and attempted rape all fall under the definition of sexual assault.

    Here’s what consent DOESN'T look like:

    • Refusing to take no for an answer
    • Assuming that wearing certain clothes, flirting or kissing is an invitation for anything more
    • Someone being under the legal age of consent, as defined by the state
    • Someone being incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol
    • Pressuring someone into sexual activity by using fear or intimidation
    • Assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past

    According to RAINN, consent is about communication. Giving consent for one activity, one time, does not mean giving consent for increased or recurring sexual contact. For example, agreeing to kiss someone doesn’t give that person permission to remove your clothes. Having sex with someone in the past doesn’t give that person permission to have sex with you again in the future.

    Although there is no guarantee of personal safety for anyone, each of us has a role to play in preventing sexual assault. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself or someone else from becoming a victim.

    • Don’t trust everyone, but let people earn your trust over time.
    • Be careful about putting yourself in a sticky situation. If you are going out with friends you trust, keeping an eye on each other and planning to leave together can be helpful. 
    • Never leave your drink (alcohol or not) unattended or take a drink from someone else. 
    • Be alert and aware of your surroundings. Ask for an escort to your car if you feel unsafe. Lock your doors and secure the windows when you are asleep or leaving your home.
    • Be wise about posting your location on social media. Consider privately sharing your location with someone you really trust in case something goes awry.
    • Have a backup plan for emergencies, and anticipate how you would react in various scenarios. Memorize important phone numbers, keep some cash on hand and hide an extra set of keys in case yours turn up missing. 
    • Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, leave or get a friend to help you out.
    • If you see a potentially dangerous situation, step in and say something, either by yourself or with backup. 

    Sexual assault is evidence that without respect for one another, people and our society suffer greatly. It is not okay under any circumstance, and silence about it can allow it to happen over and over again. 

    It’s crucial that we promote healthy, respectful relationships in all areas of life if we want to make a difference. Everyone could benefit from recognizing that respect involves valuing the opinions and decisions of others without attempting to control them. A respectful person does not take advantage of another person and honors boundaries that are set. Showing respect also involves concern for others’ well-being and safety. 

    You can play a role in changing the culture when it comes to issues surrounding sexual assault. Educate your children. Model respect in all relationships. Talk about this issue at home, in the workplace, at school, at your place of worship and in the community. If you see something, say something.

    Coming together around this issue can help everyone have healthier relationships, which is a good thing for people and a very good thing for our community and country.

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    50 Shades of What?

    Women are more than just sexual objects. Even after the height of the women's movement, they fight to seen as bright, capable of great accomplishments and worthy of respect. For years, women have taught other females about the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one.

    Now, there's Fifty Shades of Grey. Married women, college women and even young teen girls are so infatuated with it that they have actually bought more than 30 million copies.

    It is the story of Ana, a college student who is pursued by an older guy, Christian Grey. Ana is attracted to Grey when they meet, but she believes the attraction is not mutual. Through a series of events, Grey reveals that he wants to have sex with Ana. However, he requires her to complete paperwork beforehand: a non-disclosure agreement forbidding her to discuss anything they do together. There is also a second contract: one of dominance and submission, with the understanding that there will be no romantic relationship, only a sexual one. Grey is into bondage, discipline and sadomasochism (BDSM).

    While Ana finds Grey intriguing, he confuses her. He showers her with gifts and takes her to meet his family. Yet he wants to control what she eats, tell her what to wear and require her to obey him. And, he does not allow her to touch him or look him in the eyes. Grey beats her with a belt when Ana asks him to show her how extreme the BDSM could get.

    Why does this novel draw so many women in? Doesn't it promote women as sexual objects? What is the book's message about love? Would you want your daughter to date or marry Christian Grey?

    “I think women who are intrigued by this book must ask themselves, ‘Why does this guy appeal to me?’” says Pam Johnson, licensed clinical social worker. “Being willing to turn over the keys to your life to someone who wants to dominate and control you has a very high price tag.”

    Trust and support, mutual respect, non-threatening behavior, negotiation, healthy boundaries and fairness are the hallmarks of healthy relationships. Contracts forbidding conversation about the relationship or treating one of the people in the relationship as less than the other are not healthy or loving behaviors.

    Why would a woman offer herself to a man who makes it perfectly clear he only wants to dominate her and have sex with her?

    “In many instances, this 'Christian Grey' kind of person attracts women who are looking for safety and security,” Johnson says. “At first it may be very appealing to have someone who will take all the hard decisions away when things feel scary and out of control. However, you cannot mistake control over your life for a real love that is safe and secure.”

    Any relationship that dominates, degrades, and fails to nourish and cherish is nothing more than a work of fiction. When a woman learns to first love herself for who she is, there is no room for shades of gray.