Ahh, love is in the air as Valentine's Day lies just around the corner and dozens of roses and boxes of chocolate are being purchased throughout the nation as symbols of love and romance. Storefronts are dancing with cupids and arrows and the famous conversation heart candies line the shelves. Children individually craft valentines to classmates with "be mine" messages echoed across each one. Ahh, yes—love...all is perfect.
Well, not exactly. This is especially true for the 30 percent of teens who report abuse in relationships. Not only is February a month of love, it also marks National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. This national campaign provides an excellent opportunity to educate ourselves about the very real dangers of teen dating violence.
Here are some important things you need to know about dating violence:
What it is...
Teen Dating Violence is the psychological, emotional, physical, and sexual violence that occurs within a dating relationship.
What the stats say...
What the victim warning signs are:
• Physical signs of injury
• Decline in school performance
• Decline in hygiene and appearance
• Changes in mood or personality
• Use of drugs/alcohol
• Decrease in self-esteem
• Withdrawn from family and friends
• Withdrawn from activities once enjoyed doing
• Overly dependent on boyfriend/girlfriend
• Has unexplainable injuries
What the violent partner warning signs are:
• Extreme jealousy
• Controlling and demanding
• Manipulative and deceitful behavior
• Quick to fall in love
• Unpredictable mood swings
• Use of alcohol and/or drugs
• Violent and aggressive tendencies
• Isolates victim from friends and family
• Uses physical force during arguments
• Requires constant contact, does not give space
• Calls names and continuously puts others down
• Comes from a family history of violence or criminal behavior
With about 72 percent of eighth and ninth graders being in a dating relationship, it's important to take the time to speak with your teen about healthy and unhealthy relationships. In a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers found that 55 percent of parents reported talking to their teen (ages 11 to 18) about dating violence. Mothers were more likely than fathers to engage in these conversations. The study also found that teen dating violence was less likely to be discussed than other teen-related issues such as: academics, alcohol and drugs, family finances, sex, and dating relationships in general.
Parents who reported not talking about dating abuse with their teens cited that either their child was not dating or was too young, that their child would learn about the issue through experience, or that they (parents) didn’t know how to engage in a discussion about the topic. Well, it could start something like this..."I know you're growing up, and with that comes responsibility and choices. We need to have a real talk about relationships and how others should treat you..."
Unfortunately, if this conversation is a little too late, and you feel that your teen may be involved in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, please seek help. If you need more information, below you will find some great sites and resources.
Hello readers—If I missed a great resource please feel free to add it in the comment section for other readers.
Break the Cycle
Toll Free: (888) 988-TEEN
Joyful Heart Foundation
Love is Not Abuse
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
Toll Free: (866) 331-9474
Teen Outreach Program
Toll Free: (800) 300-1080