Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Read about the factors that make teens more susceptible to abuse, warning signs and ways to speak to teens about Teen Dating Violence.
“Because I love you,” can turn quickly from an innocent declaration to a way to control a partner. Teens in abusive relationships are more likely to attempt suicide, 4 times more likely to become pregnant and more likely to experience violent relationships as adults.
Teen dating violence can be physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual in nature for young people 12 to 18 years old. This type of violence can occur both in-person or electronically from a current or former dating partner.
Dynamics of Teen Dating Violence
- Experience – Teens have limited dating experience when they encounter dating violence. For some teens, seeing their partner’s jealousy, possessiveness and even physical abuse can be framed as “romantic.”
- Faster Involvement – Teens perceive relationships to be significant in a much shorter period of time. For example, talking about “love” within in the first month of dating can make it more difficult for a survivor to leave, even after a short period of dating.
- School – If a relationship goes bad, teens still may attend the same school. This can cause a survivor to feel trapped; especially if they see the abuser in passing.
- Peer Pressure – Teens can feel pressured by peers to be involved in a relationship. Peers may see the abuser as “cool,” not knowing the whole picture.
- Resistance to Seek Help – During this developmental stage of adolescence, teens are looking for ways to assert their independence, develop their identity and question their self-value. Teens want to solve their own problems and fear restrictions on their freedom if they reach out to an adult.
How You Can Help: Proactive Conversations – Talk to Teens about Healthy Relationships
- Love is not about violence or control · Teach youth to be assertive· Practice conflict resolution · Set sexual limits and communicate them. · Trust your feelings· Have a “buddy system” · Insist both people have equal say in a relationship · Watch for warning signs
Talk about Warning Signs
- Jealousy· Controlling behavior· Isolation· Blames others for problems· Loses temper quickly· Verbal abuse· Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde personality – very nice one moment and then very abusive· Abuses alcohol or drugs· Pressures or guilts into having sex· Relationship gets too serious too fast
Teens may struggle to end an abusive relationship based on several factors. Many teen survivors may think they can change the abuser’s behavior and think about times when the abuser has not been hurtful out of love. Some may stay in the relationship due to fear of threats of hurting themselves or the victim if the relationship is ended. Some teen survivors may doubt or not want to admit to themselves that the relationship is abusive. Others may stay out of embarrassment and see themselves as a failure if they ask for help. It is important to continue to share the following messages if a teen confides in you.
Important Messages for a Teen in an Abusive Relationship
- It is not your fault· You deserve better· You are not alone· If it feels scary, it is abuse· Get help and support, do not do it alone
Be Empowering instead of Advice Giving
- Do not downplay it. Never say, “It’s not that bad.” or “It could be worse.” · Be non-judgmental· Use reflective listening· Let them recognize, express and cope with their feelings.
Help is Available
At WINGS, we provide group and individual counseling to teens in our Safe House and Housing programs. This includes domestic violence education on relationships, consent, self-esteem, social media safety, bullying and trauma psychoeducation. Counseling can include discussions, art, music, writing, or role playing.
WINGS assists teens in developing a safety plan when they want to end an unhealthy relationship. Some topics discussed are:
- Can you tell your guardian? What other adults can you tell? · What friends can you tell to help you remain safe? Consider using a buddy system for school activities. · Keep a journal describing any continued abuse. · Change your cell phone number and/or social media accounts. · Where could you go quickly to get away from the abuser?
- National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1.866.331.9474 | 1.866.331.8453 TTY
- Domestic Violence 24-Hr Hotline: 847.221.5680
Article contributed by: Sarah Swiston, WINGSTags: #datingviolence, #domesticabuse, #domesticviolence, #mentalhealth, #wings