February, every year, attempts to bring awareness to the dating violence that teenagers experience and provides knowledge on ways to prevent further or current violence from occurring. Did you know that “nearly 1.5 million high school students in the United States are physically abused” (NCADV, 2015) by their partner every year? It is essential to recognize that not only does intimate partner violence affect adults but also teenagers. Dating violence can have long-lasting effects on teens, such as a higher likelihood of risky behaviors or mental health wellness disruptions (CDC, 2021b). In addition, teenagers who experience dating violence have a higher probability of attempting or thinking about suicide (Ackard & Neumark-Sztainer, 2002). Although unfortunately, some teenagers are at greater risk for dating violence, populations such as sexual minority groups and racial/ethnic minority groups have a higher risk (CDC, 2021a).
Mental health professionals would like to bring higher awareness to these experiences. Bringing awareness to the entire population, including especially teenagers, will help get the knowledge out about dating violence and how to recognize it. There must be awareness of warning signs in these discussions, acknowledging that it is not okay to be treated that way. Teens should reach out for help if they are experiencing dating violence themselves or know someone. According to loveisrespect.org (n.d), “only 33% of teens who were in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about the abuse.” Some of the signs of an abusive relationship include (CDC, 2021b):
Using verbal or non-verbal communication to harm another mentally or emotionally (using derogatory language).
Repeatedly texting to keep a “close eye” on you.
Forcing or attempting to force a partner to engage in sexual behaviors when the partner does not want to or does not consent.
Physically harming you by slapping, hitting, kicking, etc.
Now, you may be asking how you can help or what we can do to bring awareness and prevent this from happening to teens in our community? Teaching safe and healthy relationship skills, creating protective environments, and supporting survivors are three ways we can help protect teens (CDC, 2021b). In addition, we can open up conversations that we may typically not have with family, friends, and even classmates by bringing awareness. Start conversations with teens you know and see what knowledge there is and further that knowledge on areas that may not be known or understood. As a community and fellow human beings, we must look out for others and do what we can.
Author: Hailee Collier, LMSW, Clinical Social Work Intern
References: Ackard, D. & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2002). Date violence and date rape among adolescents: associations with disordered eating behaviors and psychological health. Child Abuse & Neglect, 26(5), 455-473. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0145-2134(02)00322-8 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). Preventing Teen Dating Violence. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/teendatingviolence/fastfact.html Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). Teen Newsletter: March 2021 – Teen Dating Violence. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/museum/education/newsletter/2021/mar/ Loveisrespect.org. (n.d). Dating Abuse Statistics. https://www.loveisrespect.org/pdf/Dating_Abuse_Statistics.pdf National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (2015). Teen, campus and dating violence. Retrieved from www.ncadv.org