As soon as Christmas is done, it seems like retail stores can’t wait to fill their shelves with Valentine’s Day paraphernalia. Just take a quick peek at Pinterest to see how many Valentine's Day cards for kids are ready and waiting for the eager crafter! Long line-ups at chocolate stores and card stores abound. We are a society that has really bought into this special day.
Many high schools encourage teens to celebrate by having Valentine’s Day dances and candy-gram deliveries to classrooms. But for some teens entering the world of dating, there is a darker side we need to address in our society: teen dating violence. The statistics are startling. We need to pay attention to the very real challenges that many teens confront when they walk into the very confusing world of dating.
- 1 in 3 high school students have experienced physical or sexual violence (or both) from a dating partner.
- Women ages 18 to 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence.
- Nationwide, youth ages 12 to 19 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault.
- Approximately 10% of adolescents report being the victim of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner during the previous year.
It is also important to realize that the impacts of teen dating violence are very real. As noted by youth.gov:
Girls are particularly vulnerable to experiencing violence in their relationships and are more likely to suffer long-term behavioral and health consequences, including suicide attempts, eating disorders, and drug use.
These statistics are overwhelming and so disheartening. For parents raising teens and young adults, they are downright terrifying. What can we do to break this cycle of abuse? One answer is to educate yourself! What does dating abuse look like? It is important to talk about the various forms of abuse with teens as they enter the dating world and be vigilant to look for signs of it as well.
- Physical Abuse: Any intentional use of physical force with the intent to cause fear or injury, like hitting, shoving, biting, strangling, kicking or using a weapon.
- Verbal or Emotional Abuse: Non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring, humiliation, intimidation, isolation, or stalking.
- Sexual Abuse: Any action that impacts a person’s ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs, including rape, coercion, or restricting access to birth control.
- Digital Abuse: Use of technologies and/or social media networking to intimidate, harass, or threaten a current or ex-dating partner such as demanding passwords, checking cell phones, cyber bullying, non-consensual sexting, excessive or threatening texts, or stalking on social media.
- Stalking: Being repeatedly watched, followed, monitored, or harassed. Stalking can occur online or in person, and may or may not include giving unwanted gifts.
- Financial Abuse: Exerting power and control over a partner through their finances, including taking or withholding money from a partner, or prohibiting a partner from earning, or spending, their money
In addition to knowing what signs to look for, Loveisrespect.org is an agency that offers a great deal of resources to further this conversation. They offer curriculum for middle schools and high schools. They also offer practical steps on how to get out of abusive situations.
If you need support, please reach out to someone you trust to talk about this. If you don’t have someone in your community that can help, Love is Respect is a phone call or text away. Please reach out to them:
Text: loveis to 22522
You can follow the conversation online by following:
Break the Cycle: @breakthecycle (instagram)
Love is respect: @loveisrespectofficial #TDVAM20 (instagram)