“When We Know Better, We Do Better.”
The month of February is usually all about Valentine’s Day, romantic comedies, and chocolate. However, February is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. This provides a great opportunity to talk to the teens in your life about health and unhealthy behaviors in a dating relationship. One out of three teens will experience teen dating violence before the age of 18. Experiencing abuse in teen dating relationships increases the likelihood of abuse in later relationships. This is why it is important to start early in prevention efforts. The first step in preventing dating violence between teens is to know what it looks like. When we know better, we do better. Here’s what you should about Teen Dating Violence (TDV):
Know the Facts
- TDV is a pattern of controlling and assaultive behaviors, which include emotional abuse, psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and stalking.
- Every year, nearly 1.5 million high school students are physically abused by their partner.
- One in five girls and one in ten boys experienced some form of physical or sexual dating violence.
- One in five women and one in seven men first experience partner violence between the ages of 11 and 17.
- Emotional and physical abuse are the most common types in TDV.
- Those who report experiencing TDV in high school are also likely to experience Intimate Partner Violence in their college relationships.
- One in four women and one in seven men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
- Among college students who were sexually assaulted, 35% of attempted rapes, 22% of threatened rapes, and 12% of completed rapes occurred while on a date.
Know the Tactics
Emotional/Psychological: Abusers maintain control by putting their partner down through name calling, yelling, using degrading language, using looks or gestures to intimidate, isolating from friends and family, making partner feel like they’re going crazy, and expecting partner to always be available to them.
Physical: This type of abuse can be anything from grabbing all the way to choking. As well as shoving, hair pulling, hitting, and slapping.
Sexual: Engaging in any sexual activity without partner’s consent.
Stalking: Repeatedly following or harassing to the point of causing them to fear for their safety.
Digital: Posting or threatening to post private pictures, going through partner’s phone, using social media to keep track of partner’s whereabouts, and repeatedly calling/texting when partner does not want contact.
Know the Effects
There are both short-term and long-term effects of being a victim of TDV. These include:
- Poor academic performance
- Delinquent behavior
- Substance abuse
- Experiencing intimate partner violence in adult relationships
- Higher risk to develop anxiety and depression
- Higher risk to experience thoughts of suicide
Know How to Prevent
Now that we understand what Teen Dating Violence is and what it looks like, we can take steps to prevent it. Here are some of the actions you can take to protect the teens in your life:
- Model positive behavior: Children learn by what they see in their social network. That includes parents, teachers, other students, and other family members. Be an example of what a healthy and safe relationship looks like and feels like.
- Talk about healthy relationships early: It’s never too early to start discussing healthy behaviors, consent, and boundaries. Start these conversations early, before teens try to figure them out on their own.
- Establish open lines of communication: Having a non-judgmental adult in their life is crucial when teens need guidance when navigating a tricky situation, such as controlling behaviors from their partner. Creating the space to talk through those situations can prevent future violence.
- Look for the warning signs: Look out for the behaviors previously discussed, as well as changes in behavior, friends, or communication. Explore with the teen that you have observed these changes and want to make sure everything is okay. These conversations can sometimes be uncomfortable, but it will reinforce the idea that you are a judgement-free, caring adult in their life.
Take advantage of this month to initiate conversations about these types of dangerous behaviors and how to get help. For activities and more information about healthy dating, go to loveisrespect.org. If you need of help for dating violence, please contact Common Ground’s 24-hour Resource and Crisis Helpline at 1-800-231-1127.
Author: Alexis Reed, Victim Advocate at Common Ground