Is This Type of Violence Considered Child Abuse?
by Darlene Barriere
(Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada)
This article was inspired by a comment received on one of my commentary pages. The now 16-year-old girl described a violent and sexually abusive relationship with her then boyfriend. What she described is not considered child abuse; it is called Relationship Violence.
Relationship violence is the emotional, physical and/or sexual assault of one partner by the other in a dating relationship where the couple is not living together. Couples include:
The statistics for relationship violence are alarming:
- Almost 4 of every 10 females and 1 of every 3 males report being violent at some point in their dating careers.
- More than 1/4 of victims and 3 of 10 offenders see violence in a dating relationship as a sign of love.
- The average age of the first violent relationship experience is 15 years.
- In Canada, 1 woman every 6 minutes is sexually assaulted.
- 30% of female murder victims are killed by their intimate partners.
- The average number of times a teenage girl will be assaulted by her intimate partner before leaving the relationship is 9 times; that number is 35 times for adult women.
In the province of British Columbia—indeed, in many if not all provinces in Canada— unlike child abuse, there are no mandatory reporting laws regarding known or suspected relationship violence. Assault victims have three options:
- personally make a report
- have friends or parents/guardians make a report
- choose not to report
It is very important to understand that the cycle of violence will continue and the severity of the violence will increase, unless there is intervention
Where do you go for help if you are in an abusive dating relationship? Depending on the type of assault:
- Talk to someone you trust (parent, teacher, counselor)
- Sexual assault and information centre
- Hospital emergency ward
- Crisis Centre
- Kids Helpline
- Keep trying until you get the help you need.
How to prevent relationship violence:
- Believe in yourself. Self-confidence is a deterrent to abusive people.
- Establish and communicate your personal limits. When you set boundaries, you exude confidence and self-respect.
- Practice making choices based on what you want.
- Pay attention to your feelings and trust your intuition. If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't right.
- Do not accept inappropriate behaviour. You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
- Be assertive/be firm.
- Maintain your choices.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol, as they adversely affect inhibitions and they hinder judgment.
- Keep friendships during dating relationships a huge red flag is when your dating partner prevents, or tries to prevent you from having a relationship with your friends. Keep friends close so that you can turn to them for help.
- Seek help when there are problems in the relationship. Don't think that you have to deal all by yourself.
How do you get out of an abusive relationship?
- Break up with the person
- Obtain a peace bond or restraining order, if necessary
- Turn to your friends for support
- Let people know what's going on
• At school
• At work
- Seek counseling
Healthy relationships involve communication, negotiation, a healthy self-esteem, and a balance of power between the two partners. Don't allow yourself to become involved in an unhealthy relationship. Remember: Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.