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Understanding Teen Dating Violence: Warning Signs and Prevention Tips

The U.S. department of education shows that about 1 in 3 teens between the ages of 14 to 20 have been victims of dating violence or have been the perpetrators. Dating violence is not just physical and can include acts of stalking, emotional, verbal, and or psychological abuse. Examples include coercing one’s partner to have sex or isolating one’s partner from their close friends and family to gain control. Interpersonal violence is Nationwide. It was found that about 12% of 9th to 12th grade girls have been physically forced to have sex when they did not want to. Interpersonal violence is also experienced by men. 1 in 7 men have reported experiencing violence in their relationship, while 1 in 6 men experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. These statistics are believed to be underreported though. With the increasing use of social media and phones, dating violence can also occur online and through technology. It is important to understand the facts and to know the signs of possible dating violence and ways to prevent and stop it.

Teen dating violence is considered an adverse childhood experience (ACE). It can create lifelong problems for the survivor and create barriers that can affect opportunities and general well-being. Teens who have experienced these acts of abuse are at a higher risk of experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety, developing substance use issues, experiencing suicidal ideation, and developing more antisocial behaviors. Experiencing violence as an adolescent can create an unhealthy foundation and perception of relationships in adulthood. Teens who experience this can develop unhealthy attachment styles, such as disorganized attachment, and struggle with maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships well into their adulthood. It has been found that teens who experience violence are at a higher risk of revictimization in college. 

teen dating violence

Signs that you are in an abusive relationship

  1. The person humiliates and insults you as an intimidation tactic.

Ex: The person calls you “dumb” in front of your friends

  1. They have isolated you from your friends and family

Ex: They tell you lies about your family to distant you from them

  1. They utilize physical abuse to control you.

Ex: They hit you when you get upset or try to confront them

  1. They invade your privacy and show up unwanted.

Ex: they show up at your place to work without telling you

  1. They leave you unwanted gifts.

Ex: They send you unwanted gifts to try and lure you back in.

  1. They track your location or go onto your social media accounts.

Ex: Checking your instagram account to see who you’re friends with

  1. Unwanted sexual contact.

Ex: They force you to have sex when you tell them you’re not in the mood.

  1. They are unpredictable and display an explosive temper when upset.

Ex: They throw your belongings when they are angry

  1. They display extreme jealousy and mistrust in you.

Ex: They don’t like you having friends of the opposite sex

It is important to be aware of the signs of a possible abusive relationship so that action can be taken before the situation escalates.

Safety Tips

There are several safety tips that can be taken to protect oneself or others from entering an abusive relationship or staying in one. Below, are a list of safety tips that can help someone experiencing violence within their relationship.

  1. The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

  2. Developing a safe space one can retreat to when feeling unsafe.

  3. Document the abuse: recording what’s taking place can be helpful for collecting evidence. 

  4. Tell someone: telling a friend, parent, teacher, or counselor can help feel less isolated and can build strong support to help the individual get out of the violent relationship. 

  5. Avoid giving the person items that are important to you.

  6. Create strong physical, psychological, and emotional boundaries. Remember to be consistent and assertive with these boundaries. “If…then” boundaries are a good start. 

Tips for parents

While the parental instinct may be to prevent them from seeing the person, it can actually make the situation worse and make it harder for them to leave their partner. Many teens in abusive relationships do not have a lot of freedom, taking their freedom to choose away from them can cause them to push back. It is important for parents to listen to their teen and assure them that they are there to support them and not control them. Being nonjudgmental is imperative in creating a safe space where they feel comfortable being open and vulnerable. Effective communication skills include validating your child and listening to them instead of pushing for solutions. Sometimes the best solution is  just hearing them out, asking questions, and being empathetic towards their situation. Working with your teen is more effective and can have a positive impact long-term. Remember, patience is key!

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