Teen Dating Violence: Know the Facts
by Giselle Bello
Sadly, dating violence among teenagers is not as uncommon as parents might think. A survey from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) shows that among high school students, 9.8% have been slapped, hit, or otherwise intentionally physically hurt by their significant other within the past 12 months.
Furthermore, dating violence is normally not a one-time event. Other research shows that one out of three victims has been with more than just one abusive partner. For these teens, human development experts feel that their first abusive partner was likely the start of a trend.
Types of Dating Violence
Dating violence is not always solely physical. It can also have a psychological, emotional, or sexual nature. Violence can manifest itself in abusive and forceful acts, but also through threatening or stalking.
Furthermore, dating violence does more than physical damage. These events can have negative impacts on future health, and leave serious emotional scars. Victims of dating violence become more likely to be depressed, have eating disorders, not do well in school, use alcohol and drugs, and be victims of further violence later in their adult life. A shocking statistic reveals that among adults who are victims of rape, stalking, and/or physical violence by an intimate partner, 15% of men and 22% of women had their first experience with partner violence sometime between 11-17 years old.
Know the Risk Factors
It is not always easy to spot a potential abuser before the violence happens. However, research indicates that those who might inflict harm on their dating partner are often more aggressive or depressed than their peers. They also might be unable to deal with anger or frustration, use drugs or alcohol, have violent friends, have learning difficulties or behavioral problems, have multiple sex partners, not have parental supervision, or witness violence in their own home.
Is Your Teenager a Victim?
There are obvious signs of abuse to look out for, including injuries, bruises, and any damaged property. Aside from these telltale signs however, your child may be a victim of dating violence and not displaying any physical signs.
Teens experiencing violence may stop spending time with their friends, or become more secretive. Look out for these sudden behavioral changes, as they may be indications that he or she is going through serious issues. Do not be hesitant about confronting your teen, especially if his or her partner seems hostile, jealous, or threatening, or if you have any other reason to suspect violence in the relationship.
When approaching your teen, find a comfortable setting and time to address the topic. It is good to have specific examples to help you express your concerns. Always listen and be open-minded. Offer care and support without blaming or being accusatory. If your teen does admit he or she is a victim of dating violence, reach out to your local battered women’s shelter or police department for additional help. If your teen denies any dating violence, continue to monitor them closely while also being as supportive and understanding as possible.
Additional Resources and Help
There are several online resources that can provide information about dating violence. The website BreaktheCycle.org gives lots of useful information about dating violence and other forms of abuse. The website also provides tools and tips to help educate people on how to end the violence. Another great website is loveisrespect.org. This provides a wealth of both information and support, directed towards both teens and parents. Tools include information on communication, how to identify unhealthy relationships, safety planning, and much more. Finally, there are peer advocates available 24/7 that can provide assistance and support. These advocates can be reached live online chat, text message, or phone.
How Can I Help?
Talk openly with your teens about dating violence, and encourage them to help take action. Help them to speak out and raise awareness among their peers.
If they want to further contribute, there are programs such as UHopeLine that allow teens to help their peers in need. UHopeLine, a network from Verizon Wireless, allows students to help victims of domestic violence by hosting phone drives. In these phone drives, students help collect wireless devices from the community that are no longer being used. These donations are then recycled and used to support domestic violence victims. Refurbished phones are either donated to domestic violence organizations, or instead converted into cash grants that help support the activities of the organization.