Teen dating violence is real and increasing. February is teen dating violence prevention month. It is fitting that a month dedicated to celebrating love also includes a significant note on the state of abuse and violence present in many relationships. We all deserve love and respect in a healthy, safe, and nurturing relationship. Yet, teen dating violence happens every day. Dedicating one month to discuss this issue does not diminish the significance; it provides a venue for focus and discussion where one may not already exist. As a mother of a teenager, this is a particularly important issue for me. I share with you seven things we all need to know about teen dating violence.
1. The Stats
The number of teens in abusive and violent relationships is incredibly high: 1 in 3 teens report experiencing violence each year. That astonishing statistic is a disturbing glimpse into a growing problem. Now, consider that reports of teen dating violence also includes tweens as young as eleven years old. Furthermore, that statistic increases among those who are sexually active. No matter what we think about the proper dating age it is clear that tweens consider themselves in dating relationships.
2. The Abuse
Breakthecycle.org describes dating violence as an attempt to “exert power or control over a dating partner.” As such, the abuse happens over time, escalates in occurrences, and often involves a variety of methods. While the patterns and types of abuse vary among abusive relationships the fact remains that it is violence and it is wrong. Abuse takes many forms not just physical, but also mental. The very devices we love are used as tools to inflict abuse. Teens in abusive relationships are harassed, stalked, threatened, controlled, and humiliated through phones, computers, tablets, social media, and email. Easy access means that the dating abuser has many opportunities to cause harm to their victim.
3. Signs of an Abuser and the Abused
Sometimes it is difficult to decipher the signs of dating abuse and violence, especially if the harm is predominantly emotional, but some are more prevalent than others. Take, for example, an arm twist that does not leave a mark or that suffocating presence; constantly telling your teen what to do and where to go or not go; limiting their contact with others; or a noticeable bruise that is covered up with makeup or an excuse. Now, top it all off with explosive anger and physical aggression from the abuser. These signs you may never see. In fact, nearly two-thirds of parents say that it is difficult to tell when someone is in an abusive relationship. There are a few signs you can look out for such as extreme changes in mood, character, and dress, extra makeup and clothes to conceal damage. Dating violence starts slow and small, but once it starts it does not end until the two are separated.
4. Escalation and Silent Suffering
Dating violence often starts with small incidents of abuse and before you know it, you are in a full-blown violent dating relationship. Many teens internalize this treatment as a natural and expected relationship behavior. Over a short period of time the abuser becomes persistent and more forceful, increasing the violence until the idea of abuse worms its way into your psyche and your life outside of the relationship. Ashamed of the abuse, many teens hide their scars. Heartache from a breakup is different from abuse and violence. Love is not supposed to hurt that way. You deserve to be loved properly. Violence and abuse are not love. Love is respect and support.
5. The IMpact
Teens who experience dating violence are more likely to struggle with peace and health in all areas of life. They are also more likely to develop addictions such as alcohol and drugs, and further unhealthy relationships with food and people. Victims are more likely to experience abuse and violence in later dating relationships. Early intervention can help you to understand the current behavior can foreshadow future behavior. Interrupt that process and prevent them from accepting abuse and violence as a normal and expected part of being in a relationship.
6. Help is out There
In an abusive relationship you feel utterly alone in a way that you really can't quite explain. You know people are around you; you know that people care and want you to be healthy and happy but you have a difficult time with trust. It is difficult to trust that the help will be enough and that leaving the abusive and violence relationship will be clean or complete. Believe me, help is out there and available to help rebuild your confidence and strengthen your courage: friends, family members, hotlines, chat groups, rallies, and even a girls’ night out if you can manage it. There are many people willing and able to help you break the cycle. You don't have to suffer in silence.
7. You Can Help Make a Difference
Together, you and I can impact teen dating violence. Share the information you learn here as well as the links at the end. Research telephone numbers of dating violence help lines and shelters in your state. It is difficult to do too much without coming across as a nag but without some form of support, teens often stay in the abusive and violent relationship. Familiarize yourself with the signs and talk with family and friends about healthy relationships. Say something. Share crisis intervention contact information with family and friends. Even if you are not in a violent relationship, a family member, friend, or friend of a friend may benefit from your knowledge and resources.
Dating abuse and violence is occurring at an alarming rate - even one instance is one too many. Victims range in age, gender, race, and socioeconomic position. Do you know a teen in an abusive relationship? How will you raise awareness? Please, share. Let us put our heads together and help make a difference.
Check out these AWS links to learn more about signs of abusive and controlling relationships: health.allwomenstalk.com; love.allwomenstalk.com; love.allwomenstalk.com; love.allwomenstalk.com; love.allwomenstalk.com
I could on and on, we have many here.
Check out this AWS link to learn more about signs of a healthy relationship: love.allwomenstalk.com;