Is Your Teen Safe?

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Last month was Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, but what is your awareness of this issue?

According to The Rave Project, teen dating violence is more common than you might think. Here are some surprising facts about teen dating violence:

  • 20 percent of dating couples report some type of violence in their relationship.
  • 40 percent of teenage girls ages 14 to 17 say they know someone their age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend.

In “Dating Violence 101,” on the website teendvmonth.org, teen dating violence and abuse is defined as “a pattern of destructive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner.” This website provides a list for teens of the ten most common signs of abuse in a relationship. They include:

  • Checking your cell phone or email without permission
  • Constantly putting you down
  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Explosive temper
  • Isolating you from family or friends
  • Making false accusations
  • Mood swings
  • Physically hurting you in any way
  • Possessiveness
  • Telling you what to do

If you think teen dating violence doesn’t occur in your community, think again. In the U.S., one in three high school students has been or will be involved in an abusive relationship. In Canada, the data is much the same. One a national study showed that between 16 and 35 percent of young women reported having experienced at least one physical assault by a male dating partner, 28 percent experienced at least one incident of sexual abuse in the previous 12 months, and 45 percent had been victimized in a dating relationship since leaving high school.

Teens who are victims of violence in their relationships are at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and further domestic violence. In addition, being physically or sexually abused makes teen girls six times more likely to become pregnant and twice as likely to get a STD. Being victims of rape and dating violence also leads to significantly increased risk of suicide for teens.

Despite the abundance of evidence showing that teen dating violence is a serious issue in North America, awareness of the problem is low. A majority of parents don’t see view teen dating violence as an issue, and only one-third of affected teens ever report abuse that happened in a relationship.

Would you like to learn more about what you and your church can do to inform your teens of the risks? Check out the excellent resources on the Rave Project Youth Resources page.

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We love your comments! Thanks for your help upholding the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.

My concern is with the sexism found in this article.  We can argue that violence in general within dating relationships is a male offender dominated issue but this does nothing to protect or to educate the male victims or female offenders.  As Christians we have a responsibility not to allow sexist attitudes and idealology to define our Safe Church education and/or information.

Violence does not discriminate on the basis of gender and neither should we.

Thanks for your feedback! Although statistics tell us that the majority of abuse, especially physical and sexual abuse, is male against female; it certainly goes both ways. In fact emotional abuse is much more equally experienced between the sexes. Abuse may be even harder for men to disclose than for women because of societal attitudes. Men can have greater difficulty identifying and connecting with their feelings surrounding abuse. 

That being said, gender does make a difference in abuse, in the way it is experienced and interpreted.

Bonnie Nicholas, Director of the CRC's Safe Church Ministry, explains: "The intricacies of gender and how it affects abuse is complicated and really cannot be adequately addressed in this small space. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey has published a report that takes gender into account." Bonnie suggests looking at the following resource for more information: http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf

Also, Bonnie points to information from a conference that focused on the context of gender, especially in domestic abuse situations, which can be found at  http://www.biscmi.org/wshh/. Thanks again for your comment!

Thank you Rachel.  I am familar with Bonnie Nicholas's   understanding on the topic .  My concern was and is with allowing and promoting sexism within the Safe Church information such as is seen in this article "Is your Teen Safe".   It is a very worldly view on violence which advocates a female victim only and male offender only model.   I believe as a Christian site we should be promoting a more Christlike model on violence.... one which looks at how to change the pattern regardless of the gender of the victim or the gender of the offender.  Again violence as a whole does not discriminate.

It is simply a suggestion in response to your shared articles question "We’d love to hear your ideas about ways that churches and families can reduce the risks and promote respectful relationships among teens. " .    My suggestion is to remove the sexism in the information shared in this article. 

Thanks and be blessed

Community Builder

Hi Shawn,

You have said, "As Christians we have a responsibility not to allow sexist attitudes and idealology to define our Safe Church education and/or information". I absolutely agree with you 100%. Our Lord does not value one gender over another and neither should we in our churches. Both male and female are created in His image, and both reflect His glory. ALL people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. That is the focus of Safe Church Ministry.

Unfortunately, abuse exists, a horrible truth in our fallen world (definitely a "worldly" issue). And part of our fallenness is that abuse is not a gender-neutral issue, but impacts women more often than men; though make no mistake, abuse affects both genders. I'm sure there will be no abuse in heaven; when we pray, "your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" we pray for an end to abuse. I know we are not in heaven yet; but the Lord has given us His Spirit and gifts to live as His Kingdom citizens right here, right now, on this broken earth. Part of the work of Safe Church Ministry is responding with justice and compassion to abuse that has already occurred. It's saying, "no, this is not right".  It's important for the church to open its eyes, to see the devastation abuse causes and work to end it. This is why we sometimes site statistics; and why stories are sometimes told. Painful stories of abuse belong to women and girls, as well as to men and boys. Those stories and lives are precious to our Lord, may they also become precious to us, as His Church. 

Hello Bonnie: 

Thank you for sharing your views on why gender is part of the equation in violence.  I however hold a complete different view and believe there is no valid reason to include gender.  Recycling the fact that certain forms of violence are perpetrated against females more than males is valid for what reason other than to lessen the impact of that specific form of violence on the minority gender.  The opposite is also true and factual.  There are many forms of violence that are disproportionately perpetrated against males.  How does this teach us to be more Christ-like and to turn away from violence? 

I know of no scripture which suggests that sin has anything to do with gender so I do not hold to the belief that “part of our fallenness is that abuse is not a gender-neutral issue”.   My experience has shown me that violence is sustained and built upon because we as a society have made it a gender based issue rather than recognizing it as sin and a spiritual matter.   One being a worldly ideology and the other Christian.   Regardless violence itself does not discriminate in scripture or in our world today.  Both Christians and non-Christians alike are victims and offenders of violence.  We as a society in general have chosen to discriminate by giving gender a position in the equation of violence, which is not reflected in God's word.   As such, I do not believe gender has any part in our “fall in sin”.

Having been raised by a documented sadistic paedophile I understand first hand what victimization is and what it can do to a person.  I accept and respect many of the worldly views on violence but the one which I believe has brought the greatest injustices to the victim is the inclusion of gender.  I know without doubt that the gender of my perpetrator mattered nothing to me or to my brothers or sisters either then during the assaults or now in our individual recoveries.     

What did matter was knowing that God loved me regardless of the actions of my perpetrator.  That He valued me equally to anyone else and that despite the crimes being committed against us; He was going to find a way out for me and my siblings.  My gender or the gender of my siblings or offender held no importance.  

Violence is gender-neutral as is God. 

What we can do as a Christian community to educate and lessen the risks of violence in our teens would be to remove the sexism in our information we put out for them.  By removing gender and inserting God into the equation we bring the focus back to the act of violence, (sin) and are able to focus on overcoming the sinful behavior by following scriptures direction on how to overcome sin.  In other words, we take the focus of gender and put it where it belongs rather than creating and promoting stereotypes.

I realise it sounds simplified and many will and have accused me of overly simplifying things, yet I believe the only solution to violence is that simple.  The God I serve is not a God of genders or of confusion.  He is a God of equality, of effectiveness and of simplistic awesomeness which is shown in His justice and in His love. 

My belief is based on my acceptance and understanding that Gods love for me was and is identical to His love for my offender.  That His forgiveness for me is equal to His forgiveness for my offender and that His gift of healing to me and my siblings is the same gift of healing He offered to my offender.   At no time was or is my gender or the gender of my offender an issue to God.  Neither was or is it an issue in my recovery through Christ Jesus.    

God has not made gender part of the equation in violence which is why I suggested that as a Christian website, we not make gender an issue in education on teen violence.  The only area where gender played a role in my recovery was in putting up barriers and the God which I serve is not a God of barriers or ideologies.

Again, the article asked for suggestions on how churches and families can reduce the risks of violence and promote respectful relationships among teens and I suggested that we remove the sexism in the information we provide to them.  I believe both as a Christian looking to Gods word for direction and as a victim/Survivor that my gender did nothing to promote or discourage the violence perpetrated against me; nor did my mothers’ gender promote her crimes against my siblings and I. 

I respect your right and that of others to believe differently.

Community Builder

Hi again Shawn,

I am very sorry to hear that you have suffered abuse. It brings a heaviness to my soul. Thank you for sharing; it's not an easy thing to do. It seems that many people are passionate about this issue because they have had first-hand experience; they know how devastating it is. (That includes me.) Every person is so very precious to the Lord and NO ONE deserves to be abused. I praise the Lord that you have found healing with Him. I believe that tremendous healing is available in the Lord. He is powerful to heal, even though what we have experienced becomes a part of our history, and becomes a part who we are. I once had someone ask me if I thought I was completely healed; I responded that it would be so only after this life was over. Yet our God is good, and amazingly powerful; His healing extends to offenders as well.

Please understand that I am in no way saying that abuse, violence and sin don't happen in both genders; absolutely they do. I know men who have sufferred at the hands of abusive women, and I know that their pain is just as real and goes just as deep as the women I know who have also suffered abuse. The fact that abuse happens more often to women, does not in any way minimize abuse that has occurred. We must not ever minimize abuse. To say that women experience abuse differently then men in no way minimizes the Lord's powerful, healing love for ALL of his children. We must not ever minimize God's amazing, transforming love! Abuse is in ALL ways, ALL wrong! And there is a great need for ALL of us to work to stop ALL abuse.

That is what Safe Church Ministry is all about - making our churches safe places for EVERYONE, where there is no threat of any kind of abuse. And making our churches safe places where ALL those who have been abused can find hope and healing. Can we agree on that?

ps - I would welcome your input on Safe Church educational materials. Please feel free to contact me directly [email protected]. Thank you.

Shawn Ferrie has made an eloquent case for his position, and I agree with it, to my own surprise.   Those who have been abused, and abusers themselves, are a small percentage of the population - they are somewhat marginalized.   To marginalize even further those who are not members of the expected gender in these situations is a subtle form of abuse or addtional victimization in itself.  Shawn makes clear that it is not the gender that is at stake, but the hearts and actions of the perpetrators and the humanity of the victims, and the grace of God. 

Community Builder

I agree that we must be careful not to further marginalize anyone who has suffered abuse.

Community Builder

I believe that this is an important dialog and welcome participation.

Thanks, everyone, for participating in this conversation. This dialogue encourages me to think of this topic from many different angles. I, for one, will be more careful to use statistics that include both men and women in the future so as not to lessen the impact of the message or to marginalize anyone or any gender. Thanks again for your feedback and kind attention to these sensitive topics.
 

Community Builder

I want to affirm what Rachel has said, and also add my thanks to those who have contributed to this dialog.

For more resources on keeping teens safe, see the front page of the Safe Church website where there is a document called Driver Training for Dating or something like that. It is full of stories that pose various relationship dynamics and then questions for teens to examine what is happening in that story. It is also gender neutral in the sense that in some of the stories, the male is on the receiving end of potentially abusive behavior, and in some stories, the female is on the receiving end.