Young love is often looked at through naïve, “rose-tinted lenses.” Often dismissed as “puppy love,” at times, these young relationships are not taken very seriously by adults. However, they need to be. According to the website, loveisrespect.org, “One in three teens will experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse from a partner.” The website, which advocates for teens and adults to be informed on how to prevent teen dating violence, also reports that “nearly half (43%) of college women report experiencing violent or abusive dating behaviors.”
February is “Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month,” and focuses on helping to educate one and all on this disturbing trend. Just as former President Barack Obama urged the nation in his Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month Proclamation, all adults need to take a “stand against dating violence when we see it.”
The impact of dating violence among young adults is severe. According to the website, youth.org, “Nationwide, youth age 12 to 19 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault.” Countless studies have been undertaken, showing that “approximately 10% of adolescents report being the victim of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner during the previous year.” While girls are particularly vulnerable to experiencing violence, this does not exclude boys from also falling victim.
The consequences of teen dating violence are equally disturbing, and include suicide attempts, eating disorders, and drug use. Sadly, adolescents in abusive relationships often carry patterns of violence into their future relationships. Not surprising, children who are victimized or witness violence frequently will bring their experiences into their own teen relationships.
How can adults help teens navigate through their tumultuous teen years and avoid entering violent relationships? Join the month-long initiative this February by first learning the warning signs that a teen may be involved in an abusive relationship. This is truly the only way to stop the problem before it starts.
Warning Sign #1: Constantly checking cell phone for significant other messages. While teens will be on their phones a lot to communicate with others, if it seems that your teen is constantly anxious about messages from their boyfriend/girlfriend, you may want to take a closer look. One of the first ways abuses can start is through social media. Especially, when their significant other is always checking in with them. As a parent, make sure you’re monitoring, so if there is a problem, you can get ahead of it.
Warning Sign #2: Isolation from family and friends. This is another tell-tale sign that something is amiss. This can start subtly, such as a dating partner telling the other what activities are okay to join, but then it can lead to more serious situations. Such as telling a dating partner to quit activities because the only thing that should matter is their relationship.
Warning Sign #3: Constant mood swings. If you notice that your teen is constantly up and down, you may want to check in and see how their relationship is going. Often those in unhealthy relationships are feeling insecure. This said, they may lash out at their loved ones. Just as the old saying goes, “we often hurt those we love the most.”
Warning Sign #4: Significant other has an explosive temper. If you notice that your loved one has any types of bruises or marks from their “partner,” obviously this is enough to report. When a teen is in an abusive relationship, they may justify their significant other’s temper. They may even go so far as to suggest it was their fault and that they deserved it. This is not okay and is another type of abuse.
Warning Sign #5: Feeling pressured to do sexual acts. Abuse comes in various forms, from emotional to social to physical to sexual. If a teen you know is having to act out in sexual ways they do not want to, this is abuse. Simply said. And just like any other type of abuse, this should absolutely be handled.