Dating violence normalized, study findings support

College students less likely to recognize dating and emotional violence, research study finds.


Courtesy of Külli Kittus (@kyllik) on Unsplash.

Gillian Manning, Editor-in-Chief

College students are less likely to recognize dating and emotional violence, a new research study finds. 

Sacred Heart University collaborated with researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s College of Education to conduct a study regarding sorority members and their experiences with dating violence. The research was published in SAGE Journals on April 8. 

The study was conducted by Kelly Emelianchik-Key, senior author and an associate professor in the FAU Department of Counselor Education; Rebekah Byrd, co-author, associate professor of counseling and coordinator of clinical experiences at Sacred Heart University; and Carman S. Gill, co-author, professor and department chair in the FAU clinical mental health program.

According to the research article, “dating violence is defined as physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence within a dating relationship, including stalking.”

The researchers had 70 sorority members answer questions after participating in an educational seminar regarding dating violence (DV). Participants were also separated into six focus groups, answering questions related to dating violence. 

“All six groups displayed themes of normalization of unhealthy behaviors,” read the research article. This normalization included self-blame, excuses, and exposure to violence in television shows, movies, etc.

When participants were asked to answer whether or not they had experienced any form of violence, 35.3% reported that they did; but, when looking at the experiences of the participants, researchers found that 82.4% of them had experienced violence in a relationship.

According to the article, participants showed a lack of understanding of what constitutes emotional violence.

“Physically forcing you to have intercourse” was recognized by 100% of participants as violent, while “emotionally pressuring you to have intercourse until you give in” was recognized by 73.9%, meaning that the latter example of DV was acceptable to approximately 25% of the participants.

“Both scenarios indicate rape, yet one of them introduced physical DV, which was not acceptable to any participant,” the article read.

Other scenarios involving DV and jealousy were recognized as unacceptable by only 32.4% of the participants.

There was a common experience shared by participants which researchers identified as emotional violence ⎼a lack of privacy with dating partners. Some partners closely monitored their social media accounts, text messages, and emails. Some participants noted that these experiences are not positive but serve a purpose in creating accountability. 

One participant said, “My boyfriend checks my texts at least ten times a day.” Another stated, “I’ll let him go through my phone and delete people he doesn’t want me talking to, and it makes things so much easier, so we don’t argue.”

The FAU News Desk reported on the study on May 4.

Gill told the News Desk that, “Our study findings underscore the need for education and early prevention programs on campuses that give a clear message that violence – in all forms – is not acceptable or normal in relationships.”

The research article stated that almost half of all women and college women report experiencing dating violence and other forms of violence or abuse. 


Gillian Manning is the Editor-in-Chief for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, tweet her @gillianmanning_ or email [email protected].