When Teenagers + Dating = Violence and Abuse!

By Nicole Bruno, MSW, MPA www.eatfunlove.com February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. One third of all teens in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. Dating is an important milestone in a teenager’s life. But what happens when dating goes wrong and violence occurs in the relationship? Teen dating violence crosses all racial, ethnic, gender, religious, and socioeconomic statuses. Anyone, anywhere, can be affected. It is a social pandemic that, if not controlled and stopped, will continue to prevail and hurt all communities. More and more teenagers are entering into abusive relationships and the violence does not stop there. Often the cycle of  abuse becomes the norm and continues into their adult relationships as domestic violence. Teen Dating Violence is defined as “the physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence within a dating relationship, including stalking. It can occur in person or electronically between a current or former dating partner. Yes, this means it can also occur online and through social media and other forms of electronic communication such as texting, emails, and posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Be aware of the relationships and conversations your teens have on social media, especially if you notice changes in your their behavior. Why is all of this important? Because there are negative effects that occur when a teen is in a violent and abusive relationship, such as depression, anxiety, anti-social behaviors, low self-esteem and sometimes even thoughts of suicide (CDC, 2014). Teens are still developing their identities, forming concepts about the world and the relationships around them. Do not allow them to continue being at risk. Prevention Is the Key – Be Aware of the Signs Speaking to your children about healthy relationships and healthy boundaries are just as important these days as the “sex talk.” Teens especially, need to know that they deserve and are worthy of a relationship that consists of: Respect Healthy communication Trust and Support Non-threatening behavior Shared power Honesty and accountability Self-confidence and personal growth It’s important for parents and teens to know the early warning signs of abusive relationships. Frequently, these signs emerge slowly and go unnoticed, often being excused as “having a bad day” or blamed on someone or something else. But under no circumstances is abusive behavior acceptable. Early warning signs of an abusive relationship include having the other person: Yell at them Says mean and rude things about the teen — tells them they are a bad person Says negative things about their appearance Calls them names Humiliates them in private or in front of others Speaks ill of their loved ones Blames them whenever something does not go right Teens are not always willing to “tell” on their boy/girlfriend. They often believe it’s their own fault or they can “fix” their abuser. It’s not easy to admit someone you care about is hurting you; as a result they may act out in other ways. Negative consequences/behaviors that a teen who is […]