Teen Dating Violence:
We have all heard about adult domestic violence, but what about “Teen Dating Violence”? What is teen dating violence, according to “Break the Cycle, Empowering Youth to End Domestic Violence”, it is a “pattern of abusive behaviors that are used to exert power and control over a teen dating partner” that usually takes place over a course of time. Like adult domestic violence incidents, teen dating violence can include:
· Physical Abuse: a use of real or threated use of force with the intent to cause injury and can include things such as hitting, shoving, biting, strangling, kicking or using a real or improvised weapon.
· Emotional Abuse: this would include the use of insults, constant monitoring, humiliation, intimidation, isolation and even stalking.
· Sexual Abuse: which includes any action that prevents a person to have to ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in whch sexual activity occurs and can include rape, coercion or even restricting access to birth control.
· Spiritual Abuse
· Economic Abuse
Some alarming statistics about teen dating violence:
•About 45% of girls know a friend or peer who has been pressured into either intercourse or oral sex. (Liz Claiborne Inc., Conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited-February 2005)
•About 81% of parents surveyed either believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it is an issue. (Women’s Health June/July 2004, Family Violence Prevention Fund and Advocates for Youth)
•Of youth reporting both dating violence and rape, 50% also reported attempting suicide, compared with just 12.5% of non-abused girls and 5.4% of non-abused boys. (D.M. Ackard, Minneapolis, MN, and Neumark-Sztainer, Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, “Date Violence and Date Rape Among Adolescents: Associations with Disordered Eating Behaviors and Psychological Health,” Child Abuse & Neglect.)
•About 57% of teens know someone who has been physically, sexually, or verbally abusive in a dating relationship. (Liz Claiborne Inc., Conducted by Teenage Unlimited.)
Often the teen relationship will start in the “honeymoon” phase where everything is great. The partner may start to exert a small amount of physical, emotional, or physical control, but will then quickly apologize for their behavior and attempt to shift the blame to someone or something else. Over time, the honeymoon phase will fade and things will start to get very tense between the teen and their dating partner, to the point where it will now explode which can now lead to intense emotional, verbal, and sexual and/or physical abuse. Remember that at the core of dating violence are the issues of power and control. The violent words and actions being used by the teen abuser, are but the tools that the abusive partner will use to gain and then sustain power and control over their partner.
A great illustration specific to the control/power componet to teen dating abuse and violence come to us from the "Dometic Abuse Intervention Project"
Signs that you may be in an abusive relationship:
The most telling sign that a teen is in an abusive relationship is if they feel that they have to be very careful about what they say or do around their partner in fear of anger them. Another excellent sign is if your partner is continually belittling you no matter what you say or do.
According to “Break The Cycle”, to determine if you are in an abusive relationship there are a number of questions that you can ask yourself. The more “yes” answers that you have to the following questions, the greater the chance that you are in an abusive relationship and need to be thinking about exit strategies:
· Do you feel afraid of your partner much of the time
· Do you avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner
· Do you feel that you cant do anything right for your partner
· Do you believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated
· Do you wonder if your are the one who is crazy
· Do you feel emotionally numb or crazy
· Does your partner humiliate or yell at you
· Does your partner criticize you and put you down
· Does your partner discourage you from doing new things
· Does your partner think you spend too much time trying to look nice
· Does your partner accuse you of flirting or cheating
· Does your partner make you feel like you can’t do anything right
· Does you partner make you feel like no one else would want you
· Does your partner treat you so badly that your are embarrassed for your friends and family to see
· Does your partner ignore or strike down your opinions or accomplishments
· Does your partner blame you for your own abuse behavior
· Does your partner have a bad and unpredictable temper
· Does your partner hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you
· Does your partner threaten to commit suicide if you break up with them
· Does your partner force you to have sex with him
· Does your partner destroy your personal belongings
· Does your partner act excessively jealous and possessive
· Does your partner control where you go and what you do
· Does your partner keep you from seeing your friends or family
· Does your partner constantly check up on you
· Does your partner excessively text or call you
· Does your partner grab, push, shove, choke, punch, slap, hold you down or hurt you in any other way
If you answered yes to the majority of questions listed above, then you are likely in an abusive dating relationship and should strongly be considering how to get out safely.
So what are some of the signs that we as parents can look for to help us raise our antenna to detect that our child may be in an abusive relationship? Look for:
· Sudden loss of interest in activities both inside and outside the family
· Was a high achiever in school but now you see a drop in grades
· Changes in appetite
· Changes in sleep patterns
· Loss of regular friends
· Drastic changes in clothing choice and they may start to wear long sleeves, long pants and scarves to hide bruises and marks
As parents we need to talk to our kids about dating violence, especially if we suspect that their partner is targeting them. Parents need to talk to their teens about the different types of violence (emotional, psychological, physical, spiritual, financial) and let our kids know that none of these things are acceptable in a relationship. Often parents model this type of inappropriate behavior themselves when we interact with our spouses, so please be alive to this fact and model respectful and caring behavior towards others.
Remember, encouraging teens to have healthy relationships before they start dating is an important discussion to have before they actually start dating. As parents, it is important to be aware of the realities surround dating violence amongst our youth, and keep those lines of communication open with your teens about their relationships as much as possible; and yes I know that this can be difficult to do. Remember, healthy teen dating will usually translate into strong and healthy adult relationships, and we as parents have an active roll to play in achieving this goal through communicating and educating our kids on this very important topic.
Don't forget to check out my posting over on The Digital Sheepdog blog called "Digital Dating Abuse" as it relates directly to this topic as well.......
The Urban Sheepdog