Category: Stalking

Dating Violence

Dating Violence


Physical abuse is any intentional and unwanted contact with you or something close to your body. Sometimes abusive behavior does not cause pain or even leave a bruise, but it’s still unhealthy.

Examples of physical abuse are:

  • Scratching, punching, biting, strangling or kicking.
  • Throwing something at you such as a phone, book, shoe or plate.
  • Pulling your hair.
  • Pushing or pulling you.
  • Grabbing your clothing.
  • Using a gun, knife, box cutter, bat, mace or other weapon.
  • Smacking your bottom.
  • Forcing you to have sex or perform a sexual act.
  • Grabbing your face to make you look at them.
  • Grabbing you to prevent you from leaving or to force you to go somewhere.


Sexual abuse refers to any action that pressures or coerces someone to do something sexually they don’t want to do. It can also refer to behavior that impacts a person’s ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs, including oral sex, rape or restricting access to birth control and condoms.

It is important to know that just because the victim “didn’t say no,” doesn’t mean that they meant “yes.” When someone does not resist an unwanted sexual advance, it doesn’t mean that they consented. Sometimes physically resisting can put a victim at a bigger risk for further physical or sexual abuse.

Some think that if the victim didn’t resist, that it doesn’t count as abuse. That’s not true. It’s still is. This myth is hurtful because it makes it more difficult for the victim to speak out and more likely that they will blame themselves. Whether they were intoxicated or felt pressured, intimidated or obligated to act a certain way, it’s never the victim’s fault.

Some examples of sexual assault and abuse are:

  • Unwanted kissing or touching.
  • Unwanted rough or violent sexual activity.
  • Rape or attempted rape.
  • Refusing to use condoms or restricting someone’s access to birth control.
  • Keeping someone from protecting themselves from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Sexual contact with someone who is very drunk, drugged, unconscious or otherwise unable to give a clear and informed “yes” or “no.”
  • Threatening someone into unwanted sexual activity.
  • Repeatedly pressuring someone to have sex or perform sexual acts.
  • Repeatedly using sexual insults toward someone.


Emotional abuse includes non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring or “checking in,” excessive texting, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking.

There are many behaviors that qualify as emotional or verbal abuse:

  • Calling you names and putting you down.
  • Yelling and screaming at you.
  • Intentionally embarrassing you in public.
  • Preventing you from seeing or talking with friends and family.
  • Telling you what to do and wear.
  • Using online communities or cell phones to control, intimidate or humiliate you.
  • Blaming your actions for their abusive or unhealthy behavior.
  • Stalking you.
  • Threatening to commit suicide to keep you from breaking up with them.
  • Threatening to harm you, your pet or people you care about.
  • Making you feel guilty or immature when you don’t consent to sexual activity.
  • Threatening to expose your secrets such as your sexual orientation or immigration status.
  • Starting rumors about you.
  • Threatening to have your children taken away.


You are being stalked when a person repeatedly watches, follows or harasses you, making you feel afraid or unsafe. A stalker can be someone you know, a past boyfriend or girlfriend or a stranger. While the actual legal definition varies from one state to another, here are some examples of what stalkers may do:

  • Show up at your home or place of work unannounced or uninvited.
  • Send you unwanted text messages, letters, emails and voicemails.
  • Leave unwanted items, gifts or flowers.
  • Constantly call you and hang up.
  • Use social networking sites and technology to track you.
  • Spread rumors about you via the internet or word of mouth.
  • Make unwanted phone calls to you.
  • Call your employer or professor.
  • Wait at places you hang out.
  • Use other people as resources to investigate your life. For example, looking at your facebook page through someone else’s page or befriending your friends in order to get more information about you.
  • Damage your home, car or other property.

Dating violence can take place in person or electronically (such as repeated texting, posting sexual pictures of a partner online, cyberstalking, cyber harassment, etc.). Unhealthy relationships can start early in life and last a lifetime. Teens often think behaviors like teasing and name calling are a “normal” par of a relationship, but these behaviors can become abusive and develop into more serious forms of violence.

Why is dating violence a problem?

Dating violence is a widespread issue that has serious long-term and short-term effects. Many teens do not report it because they are afraid to tell friends and family.

According to the Center for Disease Control

  • Among adult victims of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, 22% of women and 15% of men first experienced some for of partner violence between the ages of 11 and 17.
  • Approximately 9% of high school students report being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the 12 months before surveyed.

How does dating violence effect health?

Dating violence can have a negative effect on health throughout life. Youth who are victims are more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, engage in unhealthy behaviors, like using tobacco, drugs and alcohol, or exhibit antisocial behaviors and think about suicide. Youth who are victims of dating violence in high school are at a higher risk for victimization during college as well.

Who is at risk for dating violence?

According the the Center for Disease Control, factors that increase risk for harming a dating partner include…

  • Belief that dating violence is acceptable.
  • Depression, anxiety and other trauma symptoms.
  • Aggression towards peers and other aggressive behavior.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Early sexual activity and having multiple sexual partners.
  • Having a friend involved in dating violence.
  • Conflict with partner.
  • Witnessing or experiencing violence in the home.

Want to learn more about dating violence?

  • Contact our prevention educator by phone 941-627-6000 or by email.
  • CDC’s Dating Matters: Strategies to Promote Healthy Teen Relationships
  • National Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474 or text 77054
  • Love is Respect:
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
  • National Sexual Violence Resource Center:


Stalking is the unwanted pursuit of one person by another.  When a person repeatedly watches, follows or harasses you, making you feel afraid or unsafe.  A stalker can be someone you know, a past boyfriend or girlfriend or a stranger.

Common Stalking Behaviors

  • Showing up at your home or place of work unannounced or uninvited.
  • Sending you unwanted text messages, letters, emails and voicemails.
  • Leaving unwanted items, gifts or flowers.
  • Constantly calling you and hanging up.
  • Using social networking sites and technology to track you.
  • Spreading rumors about you via the internet or word of mouth.
  • Making unwanted phone calls to you.
  • Calling your employer or professors.
  • Waiting at places you hang out.
  • Using other people as resources to investigate your life. For example, looking at your facebook page through someone else’s page or befriending your friends in order to get more information about you.
  • Damaging your home, car or other property.

What to do if you’re being Stalked

If you’re being stalked, you may be feeling stressed, vulnerable or anxious. You may also have trouble sleeping or concentrating at work or school. Remember, you are not alone. Every year in the United States, 3.4 million people are stalked and youth between the ages of 18-24 experience the highest rates. Most people assume that stalkers are strangers, but actually three in four victims are harassed by someone they know.  If you are in immediate danger, call 911 and report everything that’s happened to the police.

Things to remember, if you are being stalked

Remember to save important evidence such as:

  • Text messages
  • Voicemails
  • Videos
  • Letters, photos and cards
  • Unwanted items or gifts
  • Social media friend requests
  • Emails

You should write down the times, places and dates all incidents occurred. Include the names and contact information of people who witnessed what happened.

Stalking is traumatic.

You may experience nightmares, lose sleep, get depressed or feel like you’re no longer in control of your life.

These reactions are normal.

It can help to tell your friends and family about the stalking and develop a safety planning.

You can also call us at 941-627-6000 or 941-475-6465 and speak to an advocate 24/7.

How to help a friend?

How to help a friend?

If you are suspecting that your friend is experiencing some form of abuse, be it physical, emotional or sexual, there are things you can do to help. Do not just assume it will work itself out because it usually just gets worse with time.

Things that might be keeping you from saying something

  • The violence can’t really be that serious: Domestic violence includes threats, pushing, slapping, choking, sexual assault and assault with weapons. You may not see any bruises, but that doesn’t mean the pain isn’t there.
  • My friend must be doing something to provoke it: A victim of domestic violence should never be to blame for another person’s choice to use violence against them. Problems exist in any relationship and violence is never excusable.
  • If its so bad, they should just leave: For most people, the decision to leave a relationship is not easy. You do not know or understand the emotional ties your friend may have to their abuser. Perhaps your friend doesn’t fully understand what is happening to them or know of any available resources to better her understanding of the violence that is occurring. Perhaps your friend has tried to leave but violence caused them to fear for the safety of themselves, loved ones or pets. You never know exactly why someone stays, and it is not your job to judge.
  • It’s none of my business: Violence is not a “personal problem”, violence is a crime with serious repercussions for your friend, your friends partner and your entire community.
  • I am friends with the abuser too: Many abusers are not violent in other relationships and can be pleasant in social situations yet be extremely violent in private.
  • The abuser must be sick: Using violence and abuse is a learned behavior, not a mental illness. People who use violence and abuse to control their partners choose to do that. Viewing an abuser as sick, excuses them from taking responsibility.
  • The abuser just has a drinking problem: Alcohol or drug use may intensify violent behavior, but it does not cause violence or abuse.
  • It’s their fault for caring about someone who abuses them: Chances are, the abuser is not always abusive. The abuser may show remorse for the abuse after it happens and your friend may hope that they can actually change. Their relationship probably involves good times, bad times and in-between times.
  • If my friend wanted help, they would ask for it: Your friend may not feel comfortable confiding in you, or anyone else for that matter. You never know why someone would keep this quiet, so confronting them and letting them know you’re there for them could be a huge relief for them to finally be able to talk to someone about what is going on.

What you can do to help

  • Say something: Tell your friend that you care and are willing to listen. Let them know you won’t be judgmental. Let them feel safe with you, because they probably don’t feel safe in other areas of their life.
  • Be informed: You’re obviously already trying to become informed by reading this information, but find out all the facts you can about domestic violence. We have tons of information under the “Get Help” tab on our website, and other resources under our “Resources” tab.
  • Guide your friend to community services: Let your friend know about services in your community, like us at C.A.R.E. Show them programs that involve safety, advocacy, support, legal information, and other needed services. Let your friend know that they aren’t alone and that if he/she doesn’t want to discuss the abuse with you, they can contact a victim advocate at 941-627-6000 or 941-475-6465 and everything they say is confidential.
  • If your friend decides to end the relationship: Help them to develop a safety plan. You may want to refer them to our hotline numbers 941-627-6000 or 941-475-6465 so they can talk to an advocate who can help them create a safety plan that best suites their situation.
  • Build your friend up: Let them know their potential and good qualities. You don’t know how beat down they have been from their abuser, they do not need anyone else pointing out their so-called flaws. Give emotional support.
  • Be patient: Reaching out for help takes a lot of courage. There are many factors that may delay your friend from seeking help or leaving their abuser. There is also a good chance if they leave their abuser, they may go back. Please be patient and supportive despite how frustrating it may become. Your friend needs you.

How to help a victim of Rape

  • Sexual violence is any unwanted sexual contact. Sexual violence includes such crimes as rape, incest, statutory sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual assault or any sexual contact without consent.
  • Many people want to help friends and family members who have been hurt, but sometimes they do not know what to say or do. Unless you have been the victim of sexual violence, you may not be able to understand a victim’s feelings. It is important to remember not all victims react or feel the same.
  • You are likely to experience some strong reactions when you learn of a friend or loved one’s assault. Reactions or feelings of anger, rage, shock, revenge, desire to fix it, to move on, and feelings of helplessness are all common.
  • For victims to become survivors, they need empathy, understanding and perhaps a listening ear. Do not be judgmental or ask victims why they did a certain thing, wore a certain item of clothing or went to a certain place. Remember no one deserves or asks to be raped.

What do victims feel?

It is important for you not to judge a victim’s response. One victim may react very emotionally and another may be extremely calm. No matter how victims react, their emotions are normal and okay.

Some common and immediate reactions to sexual victimization:

  • crying
  • sobbing
  • shaking
  • laughter due to shock
  • denial
  • feelings of fear
  • shame and anger
  • self-blame
  • feelings of guilt and helplessness
  • abrupt mood changes
  • embarrassment

Over time, these immediate reactions may fade, but other emotions and difficulties may continue for sometime throughout a victim’s recovery.

Long-term reactions to sexual victimization:

  • fear of being alone
  • fear of the dark
  • trouble sleeping
  • nightmares
  • trouble concentrating
  • depression
  • fear and dislike of sex
  • trust issues in relationships
  • flashbacks of the assault
  • anxiety
  • drug or alcohol abuse
  • engaging in high risk behaviors
  • suicidal thoughts

How you can help a victim of rape?

  • Remain calm. You might feel shock or rage, but expressing these emotions to the victims may cause more trauma.
  • Encourage medical attention. Care is important because there may be internal injuries that are not obvious, or the victim may have been exposed to sexually transmitted diseases. Victims are entitled to a forensic medical exam, whether or not they decide to report the assault.
  • Give the victim control. All control has been stripped from the victim during the assault. Allow the victim to make decisions about what steps to take next.
  • Maintain confidentiality. Let the victim decide who will know about the assault.
  • Let the victim express feeling. Listen without adding your opinions. If the victim wishes to remain silent, do not force discussion. Say you will be there to listen always.
  • Believe the victim. Make it clear to the victim you believe the assault happened and that the assault is the fault of the abuser, NOT the victim.
  • Encourage counseling. Give the victim our hotline numbers, 941-627-6000 or 941-475-6465, but let the victim decide whether to call or not.
  • Seek help for yourself. Don’t ignore your own feelings, even though you may not be able to share all of them with the victim now. You can also call our hotlines at 941-627-6000 or 941-475-6465, to speak to someone who will listen and remain confidential.

Sexual assault statistics calculated by RAINN

RAINN stands for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network and according to their data:

Victims of sexual assault are:

  • 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
  • 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
  • 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
  • 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.