Information every teen and parent should have.
By: Georgette Allen, BSW
February is National Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month. During this time, groups across the nation organize in an effort to shed light on this growing epidemic. Teen dating violence occurs in every racial, socioeconomic, and religious group. Each year, an estimated 1.5 million high school students, both male and female, are physically abused by a dating partner. Types of abuse may include physical, emotional, sexual, and stalking. Abuse can occur in-person or electronically, such as excessive texting and posting sexual pictures of the victim online. Adolescents experiencing dating abuse are at a higher risk for teen pregnancy, substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, further domestic violence, and suicide.
The highest rate of intimate partner violence is experienced by girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24. The onset of violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 (tweens) and 18. Similar to adult intimate partner violence, dating violence often goes unreported to authorities. When asked whom they would talk to about abusive behavior by a partner, 83% of female high school students said that they would confide in a friend and 7% said that they would report to the police. Only 33% of teens who had been in an abusive relationship, ever told anyone. Teen dating violence often goes unrecognized by parents as well. A staggering 81% believe that it’s not an issue or admit that they don’t know if there is an issue.
So what can a parent do? Talking open and often with your teen builds a strong relationship, increasing the likelihood of disclosure in the event that he or she is subjected to abuse by a dating partner. The more informed your teen is, the better he or she will be at recognizing unhealthy relationship behaviors; a tool that will remain valuable throughout adulthood. Characteristics of an abusive relationship include:
- Verbal Abuse
o Name Calling
o Public Humiliation
- Emotional Abuse
o Making you feel bad about yourself
o Sharing private information with others
o Ignoring or using the ”silent treatment”
- Physical Abuse
o Hitting, kicking, pulling hair, grabbing, pushing, strangling, etc.
o Using looks/gestures to intimidate you
o Smashing or throwing objects
o Threatening to leave you in a dangerous place
o Threatening suicide if you break up
- Destruction of Personal Property
- Sexual Abuse
o Getting partner drunk or drugging them to have sex
o Touching partner in an uncomfortable or unwanted fashion
o Continuing sexual advances after being told “No”
o Forcing sex on a partner
o Treating a partner like a sex object)
o Reproductive coercion
- Jealousy & Isolation
o Refusing to let partner join activities
o Using jealousy as a sign of love
o Repeatedly accusing partner of cheating
o Controlling whom partner speaks with and sees
o Controlling what partner wears
- Using Male Privilege
o Making all the decisions
o Going out with the guys but does not allow her the same freedom
o Assuming certain rights/privileges simply because he is male
If you feel that you or your teen might be in an abusive relationship, help is available. A list of local resources can be found at https://sanjuancountydvsataskforce.wordpress.com. For more information about teen dating violence, visit http://www.loveisrespect.org/.