Teen dating violence awareness

A scary statistic – only 33% of teens who had an abusive dating partner ever told anyone about the abuse.  And potentially even scarier, 81% of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit that they don’t know if it is an issue.
Yet:

  • one in three teens in the US is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner;
  • nearly half of dating college women report experiencing violence and abuse from their dating partners;
  •  young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, almost triple the national average.

Let’s also consider that these girls and young women are usually dating boys and young men very close to their own age. That means we have boys and young men ages 12 and up causing the violence, fulfilling the role of a batterer and rapist.

The goal of this article is not to terrify parents and those of us with young people in our lives but to arm us all with information, information that allows us to get engaged in working toward solutions.

So what are some solutions? First, it’s never too early to talk to your child about healthy relationships and dating violence. Even if you don’t think he/she is dating, these conversations are one of the most important steps you can take in preventing dating violence. Not sure how to get the conversation started? Here are some sample questions (taken from LoveisRespect.org):

  •  Are any of your friends dating? What are their relationships like? What would you want in a partner?
  • Have you witnessed unhealthy relationships or dating abuse in school? How does it make you feel? Were you scared?
  • Do you know what you would do if you witnessed or experienced abuse?
  • Has anyone you know posted anything bad about a friend online? What happened afterwards?
  • Would it be weird if someone you were dating texted you all day to ask you what you’re doing?

Second, get to know the warning signs.

  • Your child’s partner is extremely jealous or possessive.
  • You notice unexplained marks or bruises.
  • Your child’s partner emails or texts excessively.
  • You notice that your child is depressed or anxious.
  • Your child stops participating in extracurricular activities or other interests.
  • Your child stops spending time with family and friends.
  • Your child’s partner abuses other people or animals.
  • Your child begins to dress or behave differently, the way their partner insists that they dress or behave.

Although this list is written in the context of what to look for if one assumes a loved one is being abused, you can also easily flip each sign into the behavior of someone who is the abuser. Example, your child is extremely jealous and possessive toward their dating partner.

And last, the best way to teach our teens and young adults about supportive relationships is to have one ourselves, and to offer many examples of what a supportive partner looks like.  Additionally, the HAVEN Prevention Education team can come to any school in Oakland County to talk about supportive relationships, healthy and respectful dating choices, as well as how to be a good friend to someone in need.  Our programs can last from one day to eight weeks, and we can tailor our curricula to your school’s needs.  For more information, contact Cristy Cardinal at ccardinal@haven-oakland.org or (248) 334-1284 ext. 360.

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