TEEN DATING VIOLENCE AWARENESS

Dating violence affects almost 10% of teenagers in the U.S. (Teen Dating Violence Awareness, 2020). Teen dating violence is a difficult, yet important topic. The best ways to help a teen are by recognizing the signs of abuse, knowing how to support the teens in your life, and promoting healthy relationships.

RECOGNIZING SIGNS OF ABUSE

If a teen is in an unhealthy romantic relationship, they may not want to talk about it to the adults in their life. Knowing the warning signs can help caring adults assess the situation and find the best way to help. (Teendvmonth, 2021).

Red flags may include:

  • Extreme jealousy or possessiveness

  • Attempts to be controlling, such as restricting who a teen can talk to or be friends with or how they dress and act

  • Lack of respect towards a teen

  • Constant need to be in contact with a teen

  • Unexplained injuries are a major warning sign

DEFINING ABUSE

Before you can offer support to a teen in need, it’s important to first understand the different types of abuse. There are six different types of abuse: physical, emotional, sexual, financial, digital and stalking (Types of Abuse, 2020). We are going to focus on three big ones.

  • Physical abuse involves hitting, punching, kicking, shoving, and other harmful acts (Children’s Safety Network, 2019).

  • Emotional abuse involves intimidation, threatening, stalking, harassment, and other mistreatments. These mistreatments often result in mental distress (Children’s Safety Network, 2019).

  • Sexual abuse includes forcing or pressuring an individual into sexual acts such as unwanted kissing or touching (Children’s Safety Network, 2019).

Each of these forms of abuse will need to be handled differently. Learning the types of abuse a teen is facing will help you better understand how to help them.

HOW TO SUPPORT A TEEN IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP

Talking to a teen about an abusive romantic relationship can be a hard discussion. One of the most difficult may be helping a teen recognize they are in an unhealthy romantic relationship. Sharing your observations and concerns are good ways to begin opening up communication (Teendvmonth, 2021). Studies have found it is important to be supportive in a non-judgmental way (Support Your Child, 2020). This can encourage communication and help a teen feel more comfortable.

If you are worried about a teen in your life and looking for ways to address the topic here are some tips (Support a Student, 2020):

  • Share with them that you are concerned – Communicate with them what you have observed and how it is not healthy. Let them know you are on their side.

  • Be supportive – Provide information and non-judgmental support. Emphasize it is not their fault

  • Believe them – Teens often don’t come forward because of fear of not being believed. Let them know their feelings and experiences are valid.

  • Report any knowledge of abuse immediately – Dating violence is abuse. In Texas, it is required by law for every adult to report any instances of abuse of a child under the age of 18 (Texas Department of Family and Protective Services). For more information on when to report, visit the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website at https://www.dfps.state.tx.us/contact_us/report_abuse.asp

PROMOTE HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS

A good way to prevent a teen from getting involved in an abusive relationship is to promote healthy relationships. A good place to start is talking to them about boundaries and consent in a relationship. All healthy relationships consist of understanding the importance of respecting one’s boundaries (How to Set Boundaries, 2020). Consent is the most important factor in all relationships. Consent is defined as “an ongoing mutual agreement between partners about what they want to experience” (Understand Consent, 2020). It is important to make sure a teen has a strong understanding of the concept. This is key to helping them understand how to have a healthy relationship.

WHERE TO GET HELP

For those looking for someone to talk to:

1.800.799.SAFE (7233)

https://www.thehotline.org/

For those looking for more information on how to support a teen:

https://www.loveisrespect.org/supporting-others/

REFERENCES

Children’s Safety Network. (2019, February 21). Retrieved January 21, 2021, from https://www.childrenssafetynetwork.org/topics/teen-datingviolence#:~:text=There%20are%20three%20major%20types,punching%2C%20slapping%2C%20shoving%2C%20kicking

How to Set Boundaries. (2020, September 26). Retrieved January 20, 2021, from https://www.loveisrespect.org/healthy-relationships/how-to-set-boundaries/

Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention: Info on Teen Dating Violence. (2020). Retrieved January 20, 2021, from https://www.teendvmonth.org/

Teendvmonth. (2021, January 15). How to Teach Your Teen to Recognize the Signs of a Toxic Relationship. Retrieved January 20, 2021, from https://www.teendvmonth.org/how-to-teach-your-teen-to-recognize-the-signs-of-a-toxic-relationship/

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.dfps.state.tx.us/contact_us/report_abuse.asp

Types of abuse. (2020, September 24). Retrieved February 01, 2021, from https://www.loveisrespect.org/resources/types-of-abuse/

Support your child. (2020, September 29). Retrieved January 20, 2021, from https://www.loveisrespect.org/supporting-others/support-your-child/

Support a student. (2020, September 27). Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.loveisrespect.org/supporting-others/support-a-student/

Understand consent. (2020, September 29). Retrieved January 20, 2021, from https://www.loveisrespect.org/healthy-relationships/understand-consent/

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