By Carrie Hendrix, Director of Social Services
February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, an observance created to help break the cycle of violence in teenagers. .According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 3 adolescents will experience some form of abuse in an intimate relationship before they graduate from high school. Teen dating violence (TDV) is a type of intimate partner violence. It occurs between two people in a close relationship. According to the CDC, some of most common types of TDV include:
- Physical violence: when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or using physical force.
- Sexual violence: forcing or attempting to force a partner to take part in a sex act, sexual touching, or a non-physical sexual event (e.g., sexting) when the partner does not or cannot consent.
- Psychological aggression: using verbal and non-verbal communication with the intent to harm another person mentally or emotionally and/or exert control over that person.
- Stalking: a repeated, unwanted attention and contact by a partner that causes fear or concern for one’s own safety or the safety of someone close to the victim.
- Cyber abuse: using technology to perpetrate physical, psychological and sexual dating violence. Examples include demanding passwords to social media sites, posting threatening, embarrassing or sexual comments or content on social media sites or through texts.
Young women, transgender and gender nonconforming youth are especially vulnerable to experiencing violence in their relationships. As a result, they are more likely to suffer long-term behavioral and health consequences, including suicide attempts, eating disorders, and drug use. Adolescents in abusive relationships often carry these unhealthy patterns of violence into future relationships.
When it comes to preventing teen dating violence, the goal is to stop the violence before it begins. If you are a parent or guardian, talk to your teenager about the dangers of dating violence. Teach them how to form healthy relationships with others, as well as, important life skills to manage feelings and communicate in a healthy and respectful way.
Make sure your teens are mature enough to date and teach them how to get out of a dangerous situation, if one presents itself. Do not shy away from talking about uncomfortable topics with your teens like sex; become a trusted source of information for their questions. Most importantly know when to get involved. Changes in mood, sleeping patterns, eating habits, grades or even dropping a favorite sport or activity are all causes for concern.
If you or someone know you know is experiencing teen dating violence, loveisrespect.org is a valuable resource. Created by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the website provides 24/7 information, support and advocacy to young people between the ages of 13 and 26 who have questions or concerns about their romantic relationships. Help is available by calling 1-866-331-9474 or texting “LOVEIS” to 22522. Legacy Community Health also has an online resource to help teens and their families learn more about teen dating safety. Visit Legacy’s TeenWell webpage to learn more.