We have all sorts of relationships. The nice neighbors next door. The co-worker who always sends funny cat videos from YouTube. Our family members (even the annoying ones…) and friends. Having these folks is one of the best parts of our lives.
Most of us also form romantic relationships. Ah, the joy of finding someone new to date; the sizzle and passion of sex; falling in love and making a commitment, perhaps even for life. Good, good stuff. Hooking up with our sweetie (or our "boo") can give us so much pleasure and happiness. For many of us, intimate relationships also bring a sense of stability and security.
Truly good relationships take time and energy to develop, and should be based on respect and honesty. This is especially important when you decide to date someone. While it’s important that dating partners care for each other, it’s just as important that you take care of yourself!
In a healthy relationship, both partners:
In this podcast from the series "A Cup of Health with CDC" from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Michele Black discusses a link between intimate partner violence and illnesses, including asthma, arthritis, stroke, increased heavy or binge drinking, smoking, and risk factors such as HIV or sexually transmitted diseases.
Love should never hurt. But sometimes it does:
This includes physical abuse where someone causes physical pain or injury to another person. This can involve hitting, slapping, or kicking. Sexual abuse is also a type of violence, and involves any kind of unwanted sexual advance. It can include everything from unwelcome sexual comments to kissing to intercourse. Forced sexual intercourse is rape, when it occurs between dating partners it’s called "date rape."
Abuse doesn’t always mean that someone hits or hurts your body. Emotional Abuse is anything that harms your self-esteem or causes shame. This includes saying things that hurt your feelings or makes you feel that you aren’t worthwhile, and trying to control who you see or where you go.
These forms of abuse can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation.
If you are – or have been – in a relationship where you were mistreated, it’s very easy to blame yourself. The problem is with the abuser, though, not you. It’s not your fault! Anyone can be abused – boys and girls, men and women, gay or straight, young and old – and anyone can become an abuser.
No matter what type of relationship you are in, leaving that relationship can be scary. We often feel tugged in different directions by our feelings, for many reasons:
Love - Many abusers have a likable and loving side. Many victims believe they can change the abuser's behavior.
Fear - Sometimes a partner will threaten to hurt themselves, or you, when you decide to break up.
Doubt - It's not always easy to admit that the relationship you are in is abusive. You may be worried about what people might think.
Embarrassment - People who ask for help may feel like a failure.
Abuse doesn’t happen because you did something wrong, or weren’t smart enough or strong enough. Give yourself a break: remember that you probably did the best you could at the time, and now you’re learning how to be safe, healthy, and happy in your relationships.
Remember, you deserve healthy, happy relationships. Abuse of any type is never okay.
In any intimate relationship, ask yourself:
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may be in a relationship that isn’t good for you. The good news is you can stop dating abuse.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember, you didn’t do anything wrong, and you’re not the problem. Talk with someone you’re comfortable with. Call a hotline (see below). If you ever feel that you’re in immediate danger, get away and call 911.
It’s not easy for male victims of sexual assault to come forward and seek help. MaleSurvivor’s Chris Anderson tells us how his organization works to safely bring them out of the shadows.