Dating Violence: A Social and a Public Health Problem

Only 4 to 10 percent of young people file a complaint. The consequences of aggression can be physical, even increasing the likelihood of suicide or femicide; in the psychological sphere, they manifest themselves in mental and behavioral functioning.

Dating Violence: A Social and a Public Health Problem
Only 4 to 10 percent of young people file a complaint for dating violence. Image: UNAM

Dating violence is a social problem due to the implications and the wear and tear it causes, but also a public health problem due to the number of cases, as well as the consequences it generates in individuals, said Claudia Ivethe Jaen Cortés, professor at UNAM's School of Psychology (FP).

Furthermore, according to the United Nations, for several decades it has been a human rights issue because it violates the dignity and integrity of individuals. It is an issue that should be put on the table because of its implications, including for society in general, she said during the distance conference "Violence in dating relationships: how to identify and prevent it", organized by the PF.

Only four to 10 percent of young people report violent behavior by their partners to health or legal authorities. "The percentage is low and this is due to the re-victimization of the denouncers and the lack of knowledge of the legal procedures". Given this, it is necessary to teach -from children to adults- what should be done in this matter when faced with situations of abuse, she added.

According to the expert, many young people live in this situation in secret, so the person deteriorates as the relationship "consumes him"; others turn to their peers for advice, but most of them resort to "an eye for an eye". However, the best thing to do is to turn to the institutions that exist in the country to provide support, and talk to a trusted family member or parents to take action, and end the relationship.

Jaen Cortés warned that the aggressions begin with laughter, with aggressive playfulness; one of the members of the couple uses affectionate nicknames, spanks, pinches, and pushes. As conflict or an unpleasant situation arises, this attitude progresses to aggressive behavior.

They also confuse acts of control and manipulation as manifestations of love, which makes it difficult to detect, and for them, it is also difficult to understand or appreciate that they are in a relationship where there is abuse, although it will depend on the tolerance and perception of each of the members of the couple "because maybe for one of them a pinch or a nickname does not mean much, but for the other it does. Some may take it affectionately, while for others it may mean an offense," she emphasized.

This is why it is difficult to measure dating violence. Most studies indicate that it begins between 12 and 13 years of age, although nowadays adolescents begin romantic relationships from 10 to 12 years of age.

There are several types of aggression: emotional or psychological, that is, when the intention is to hurt the partner's feelings, including verbal abuse to cause pain, emotional discomfort, suffering; physical, which attacks the person's body, "here there can be kicks, pinches, shoves, etc.; sexual, ranging from pressure to have sexual intercourse, unwanted sexual acts, even rape," said the university professor.

Besides, she continued, economic and patrimonial violence. "We have found that couples borrow money from each other and no longer return it, they break the cell phone and the computer, or damage the car, etc."

Unfortunately, there is a lack of recent studies in Mexico that analyze the prevalence of this phenomenon. The most recent data are from the National Survey on Dating Violence (Envin) conducted by the National Youth Institute in 2007; and that of the National Institute of Women that conducted the 2016 National Survey on the Dynamics of Household Relationships (Endireh).

The former reported that seven out of 10 adolescents and young people aged 15 and over experienced an aggression event, a high prevalence of psychological coercion in the first term, followed by physical and lastly sexual coercion. While in the Endireh, unlike the Envin, men and women were asked to determine the magnitude of the aggression exerted towards them.

This last study found that 66 percent of women between 25 and 34 years of age experienced emotional, physical, economic, and sexual violence, including discrimination throughout their lives. Specifically, about intimate partner violence, it was recorded that in their last relationship, four out of 10 experienced it.

Revictimization and lack of legal knowledge limit reporting of dating violence.

Research indicates that men are more likely to experience psychological violence, mainly due to issues related to jealousy, control, and manipulation. Gender stereotypes also encourage cruelty; Mexico is a highly traditionalist country and we are immersed in this phenomenon.

The consequences of violence are diverse, among them physical health such as injuries, swelling, and bruises from blows, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, even fractures, reduced physical movement; greater likelihood of suicide, and death by femicide or homicide.

In the psychological area, they are manifested in the mental and behavioral functioning; that is, there is an increase in the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs; lack of concentration and, therefore, low academic performance, lack of motivation and energy, in addition to risky sexual behaviors, symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress.

In the sexual sphere, it leads to inconsistent condom use, which can lead to contracting sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV, and unwanted pregnancies.

Among the warning signs that allow the detection of aggressive behavior are: extreme jealousy and possessive attitude, invasion of privacy and decision making, manipulation and overt expressions of fear of being deceived or abandoned; intimidation or making the other person feel afraid; trying to dominate, as well as isolating the partner from the rest of their interpersonal relationships.

In conclusion, Jaen Cortés exposed that it is necessary to question rigid and inequitable stereotypes about what is masculine or feminine; to start changing the idea that because we are women or men we must perform certain tasks. "Both genders can work together on our personal growth and self-care, and analyze how these stereotypes affect our relationships and foster inequality.