Since 2010, February has been recognized for bringing awareness and promoting the prevention efforts that can be made against teen dating violence. It is believed that our communities are in need of healthy relationship education to put a stop to this domestic abuse, especially among individuals ages 12-19.
Domestic violence amongst teenagers is more common than you may assume, with studies showing that 1 in 3 young people will be in an abusive relationship. In addition, about 1.5 million high school students have been victims of physical abuse by a significant other in the last year. Teens who suffer dating violence whether it be physical, emotional or sexual, are more likely to develop alcoholism, eating disorders, depression, thoughts of suicide or become violent themselves.
As a parent, have you talked with your child about domestic violence? When they begin to show interest in dating, be prepared to have this conversation with them. Teach them to identify the characteristics of a healthy versus unhealthy romantic relationship. In order to educate yourself and others, learn to spot the warning signs, understand the impact this abuse has on victims and their loved ones and become informed on what resources are available.
A non abusive relationship is one that is founded on mutual respect, trust and consideration for one another. Abusive relationships involve mistreatment, disrespect, intense jealousy, controlling behavior or physical violence. This abuse can be expressed physically, emotionally or sexually. Physical abuse consists of hitting, kicking, pushing, etc. Emotional abuse can be a bit more complex and sometimes difficult for victims to acknowledge. This consists of more psychological abuse like possessiveness, intimidation, betrayal or verbal bullying. The effects of emotional abuse often linger long after the relationship has ended. Sexual abuse is any type of sexual experience that happens without consent from the victim. Understanding that all of these types of abuse can make for an abusive relationship will help teens identify when they are involved in one.
Warning signs of teen dating violence include:
As a teenager who is unfamiliar with the probability that they could be involved in an abusive relationship, catching red flags can be difficult. Educating your own kids and individuals in your community can be an effective way to prevent teens from becoming victims in future relationships.
When it comes to identifying that a loved one is a victim of domestic violence, you will likely notice that they have inexplicable injuries, have begun to withdraw from friends and family or are experiencing feelings of guilt for no reason. Understand that they need your support. Be there for them by listening to their experiences and most importantly, believing them. Victims often restrain from telling family and friends or asking for help because they fear they won’t be believed or will be judged. They may feel as if this abuse is their fault or they did something to deserve it. Assure them that their feelings are valid, they are not at fault, they are worthy of being in a healthy relationship and help is available.
As a friend or family member, there is only so much you can do to support a victim. It is recommended that you assist them in seeking professional help depending on the severity of their case. I encourage you to take part in Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month by educating yourself, your family and offering support to your community because you never know who is in need of it.
If they have experienced physical abuse and require medical attention, contact the police or a medical professional. To find a local Safe Place, click here. For those in relationships who think they may be a victim of abuse, loveisrespect.org has a live chat that offers support. For immediate assistance, contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline.