First Date vs. Reality

While it would be nice to have a clearly written assessment of a potential new partner at the first date, this is not reality.


Imagine a first date. You arrive in a carefully-selected outfit at a casual restaurant to meet your date. Over dinner, you talk about your hobbies, work, and family. Conversation is fun and natural. You split the check. Before you decide to take off, your date reaches across the table and punches you in the face.

What would you do? Call the police, leave quickly, block the phone number? This would be the reaction for most. Unfortunately, most abusive people do not use abusive tactics like calling names, becoming violent, or attempting to control their partner on the first date or even in the first weeks or months of a new relationship.

While it would be nice to have a clearly written assessment of a potential new partner at the first date, this is not reality. People who act abusively to their partners can be charming, kind and caring, and appear to be attentive partners.  Through these positive early interactions, falling in love with an abusive person is definitely a possibility. As a result, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will be physically abused by an intimate partner.  With such large numbers, it is likely that you will care for someone experiencing an abusive relationship.

Society is full of unhelpful questions about this social problem: “Why does she stay?” “How could you love someone who is abusive?” In face of what I have come to know about abusive relationships, I challenge you to ask these questions instead: “Why are so many individuals violent to their partners?” and “How can I help?”

If you know someone who is in love with an abusive partner, ask her how you can help. Give a listening ear. Remind him of his strengths. Work hard not to talk badly about their abusive partner’s character. Point out unhealthy actions in the relationship.  Familiarize yourself with resources in the community that help both survivors and perpetrators of domestic violence.  Brainstorm ways to increase safety.  Never tell her what to do (as her abusive partner is often already doing this).  Respect others’ right to make decisions in their lives. You can make a difference!

Stephanie Smith – Crime Victim Specialist

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