The teenage years are a time of rapid changes in physical, emotional and social growth. Our children are often not prepared for these changes, especially when it comes to dating. Research shows that teens who become victims of dating violence are more likely to be victimized later in life, are more likely to participate in risky behaviors such as drug, alcohol, and tobacco use, and have higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
Here are some statistics you should know:
– Almost 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner
– 21% of female students and 10% of male students in the U.S. are victims of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner
– 1 in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend
– Only 33% of teens who have been in an abusive relationship ever tell anyone
– 3 out of 4 parents have never talked to their children about domestic violence
The term “dating” means different things to different people, but a general definition is “a close relationship between two people.” The relationship could be long term, short term, involve sex or not, be committed or open, or it could be casual, or very serious. The important thing to understand is that dating violence and abuse can occur in all of these situations.
Teen dating violence is commonly defined as a pattern of abuse or threat of abuse against a teenaged dating partner. It may include one or more types of abuse: verbal, psychological/emotional, physical, sexual, digital, and/or stalking. Digital violence can include repeated texting or posting of sexual pictures of a partner online. Teen dating violence occurs across all groups and all cultures, and is even being reported among elementary school students!
You should be aware of these early warning signs:
- Your child or your child’s partner is extremely jealous or possessive
- You notice unexplained marks or bruises
- Your child’s partner emails or texts excessively
- You notice that your son or daughter is depressed or anxious
- Your son or daughter stops participating in extracurricular activities or other interests
- Your child stops spending time with other friends and family
- Your child’s partner abuses other people or animals
- Your child begins to dress differently
What can you do to prevent teen dating violence?
- Be supportive and listen patiently
- Help them recognize that abuse is not normal, and is NOT their fault
- Help them develop a Safety Plan, which is a practical guide to help them lower their risk of being hurt by an abuser. It can help them identify Safe Adults, friends, and family they can reach out to when needed. A sample Safety Plan can be found at http://www.loveisrespect.org/pdf/Teen-Safety-Plan.pdf
- Ask your child to take the Healthy Relationship Quiz at http://www.loveisrespect.org/for-someone-else/is-my-relationship-healthy-quiz/
- Check with your child’s school to see what type of school based program/curriculum they may be using that addresses Teen Dating Violence. If they are not using a program, encourage them to learn more about and use the MBF Child Safety Matters program for elementary schools and the MBF Teen Safety Matters program for middle schools. Visit mbfchildsafetymatters.org for more information.
CDC’s Dating Matters: Strategies to Promote Healthy Teen Relationships
- 10 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship http://www.joinonelove.org/define_10_signs
- National Teen Dating Violence Hotline 1-866-331-9474 (1-866-331-8453 TTY) or Text “loveis” to 22522
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