Warning signs and ways to help teens who are abused by their partner
Each year in the United States, more than 1 million high school students experience abuse by someone they are dating. Although February is known as Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, as the month comes to an end, that doesn’t mean an end to the alarming statistics and the need to bring awareness to them. If you are a parent of a teenager, use this opportunity to speak to your child about teen dating violence.
According to the CDC, teen dating violence is defined as the “physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence within a dating relationship, including stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and might occur between a current or former dating partner.”
Typically, abuse is used by one partner against another in an effort to gain, maintain, or regain power and control. The batterer may use a range of tactics to scare, manipulate, shame, blame, or harm the partner. Physical violence can include hitting, kicking, smacking, hair pulling and strangling. Throwing items, pushing and using weapons are also forms of physical abuse. Sexual violence is also a tactic as teenagers are more likely to experiment sexually, and they may be pressured to engage sexually with partners. The pressure may come from a partner or from peers.
One in 10 teenagers in a relationship reports being kissed, touched, or forced to have sex against his or her will. Last but not least, psychological and emotional violence can be just as damaging as physical abuse. This includes name calling, stalking, isolating a partner from others and shaming.
While they may not be as noticeable on the surface, there are warning signs to spot abuse. Such signs include the possible abuser checking the partner’s cell phone or email without permission; demonstrating extreme jealousy; constantly putting the partner down; possessiveness; pressuring sexual activities; engaging in any form of physical harm; expressing anger in an explosive way; isolating the partner from other relationships; controlling and making false accusations.
Teens who are victims of abuse in high school are more likely to be victims of abuse throughout their lives. They are more likely to be anxious and depressed and also more likely to engage in dangerous or unhealthy behaviors such as using drugs and alcohol as well as being more sexually promiscuous.
Teaching teens about healthy relationship skills, including communication and boundary setting, can help prevent teen dating violence. Talk to your teen about how to develop relationships that are respectful and discuss what constitutes a healthy relationship. Make the teens aware of warning signs and discuss how the media portray both healthy and unhealthy relationships.
If your teen or a parent you know would benefit from speaking to a well-trained advocate, refer either to the National Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474, chat at loveisrespect.org or text “loveis” to 22522, any time 24/7, 365 days a year.
Additional resources and help can be found on the following websites:
This campaign works to encourage conversations about healthy relationships and prevent teen dating violence.
Love is Not Abuse iPhone app is a resource for parents that provides information around teen dating violence.
Circle of 6 is an iPhone app for students and their friends to stay connected and safe and to prevent violence.
VAWNet offers resources and information on preventing and responding to teen dating violence.
For more than 20 years, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV) has been a comprehensive source of information for those wanting to educate themselves and help others on the many issues related to domestic violence.
National Domestic Violence Hotline offers facts on abuse, red flags of abuse, and ways to get support.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention program Dating Matters offers strategies to promote healthy teen relationships.
Graziella Simonetti is a parent educator for EAC Network’s Long Island Parenting Institute and works as an early childhood social worker for the New York City Department of Education. She holds an advanced certificate in parent education from Adelphi University and is a NYSPEP credentialed parenting educator. Simonetti is a former kindergarten teacher.