It’s February, and that means it’s officially the month of love. Everyone seems to be preparing for the 14th with ease, buying gifts and tokens for their sweethearts or loved ones in general. I enjoy celebrating Valentine’s Day with my mom and sisters, we usually do makeovers and a lot of self-care together.
This month means more to me than Valentine’s Day, though, it is important to me because we get to talk about a topic that most of us avoid, neglect, and push off the table: it’s Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
I belong to the Love Is Respect National Youth Committee, and I felt it was important to share my thoughts on teen dating violence and what we can do about it as youth. Together we can make a difference and impact the lives of those around us. I feel I am doing just that by sharing this post and being a part of the committee. Other youth like me are on the Love Is Respect committee, working together to change the cycles of abuse that are around us.
Dating violence is a huge issue in general, but especially among youth. It goes by many different names, including:
- Relationship abuse
- Intimate partner violence
- Relationship violence
- Dating abuse
- Domestic abuse
- Domestic violence
Too many teens deal with this issue, and sometimes on a day-to-day basis. It makes me so sad to read the statistics about how many teens struggle with this experience and that they don’t know where to go or who to turn to.
- Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.
- One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.
- Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence — almost triple the national average.
- Half of youth who have been victims of both dating violence and rape attempt suicide.
- Only 33% of teens who were in a violent relationship ever told anyone about the abuse.
Relationship abuse can be divided into three categories:
- Physical – This includes pinching, hitting, shoving, kicking, and throwing objects.
- Emotional – This involves threats and harming your partner’s sense of self-worth. Name calling, controlling/jealous behaviors, consistent monitoring, shaming, bullying, intentionally embarrassing them, and keeping them away from friends and family are all common in this category.
- Sexual – One of the more steadily increasing dangers of dating abuse is sexual. This is defined as forcing a partner to engage in a sexual act when they do not consent or cannot authorize.
My mom is one of the victims of abuse that I know personally. When she was married to my biological father, he physically, emotionally, and sexually abused her. It was very traumatizing for her, and even for me because even though I was very little, those memories are still there and it breaks my heart to even think about how he treated my mom. Because of having that sad example early in my life, I’ve always been afraid to open up and be vulnerable in a relationship. I’m still working through the fear of being hurt and abused in my own life, and it’s quite difficult when you know how much it affects others.
I am inspired by the fact that she decided to not let that circumstance define her life and through a series of ups and downs she now shares her story and helps other women get out of similar situations and create a life they love.
When people think abuse in the setting of a romantic relationship, they usually think about physical abuse administered by the male to the female. However, abuse on the girl’s part is more common than you may think. Manipulation, monitoring, and other jealous behaviors (under the emotional category) are the main space for abuse by girls.
Unhealthy relationships have many short-term and long-term consequences. On one hand, youth who experience violence have increased anxiety and depression, eating disorders, suicidal tendencies, usage in tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, and it puts them at higher risk for violent relationships during college and later on in life. It lowers academic performance, self-esteem and body image, setting the victim up for a future of pain.
You may think, “I’m just a teen, what can I do about it?” I believe that just by being aware and reading this post, you are learning the necessary steps already to identify abuse. Stopping it is not always feasible or possible, but there are several resources out there you can use if you find yourself in a situation of relationship violence, or if you know someone dealing with it.
- National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 866-331-9474
Break the Cycle: www.breakthecycle.org
That’s Not Cool: www.thatsnotcool.com
If you are involved in a relationship that is violent or you know someone who is, I urge you to seek help. I know it’ll seem difficult, and that you are dealing with a lot right now. There is a lot of fear involved, of getting in trouble, worsening the situation, others judging or blaming you, embarrassment, not knowing where to get help, and maybe even not wanting to admit that it’s a problem. But it’s worth it.
I encourage you to raise awareness among your peers, school, class, and community and talk about teen dating violence so we can all look for the signs and prevent it.
We all deserve to be in loving relationships, built on a foundation of mutual respect. That is true love there, and I am blessed to have experienced it in my own life, across relationships with my family and friends. Love is respect. I’ve also seen so many examples of wonderful relationships. It is so empowering to see healthy relationships built on trust, that makes both parties happy. Everyone deserves that. You deserve that.
Personally, I set a rule for myself to not date until 16, but when I do date, I want to establish respect at the front of every relationship and make sure I go out with people who honor my values, personality, and feelings. It’s never too early to start making those goals for yourself about what types of relationships you want to be in, and my mom supported me in creating these healthy expectations early on.
Will you take a stand against teen dating violence?