Dating violence is more common than people think, especially among teens and young adults: one in three teens in the US will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from someone they’re in a relationship with before they become adults, and nearly half (43%) of college women report experiencing violent or abusive dating behaviors.
Dating violence can take place in person, online, or through technology. It is a type of “intimate partner violence” that can include physical and sexual violence, psychological aggression, and stalking. This has a profound impact on lifelong health and well-being. The good news is violence is preventable.
Here are eight things you can do to prevent teen dating violence:
- End it before it begins. When it comes to preventing teen dating violence, the ultimate goal is to stop the violence before it even begins. The most effective prevention begins by educating youth about how to form healthy relationships with others.
- Recognize the warning signs. The most common warning signs are displaying jealousy, asking for passwords to one’s devices or accounts, and insisting on spending every free moment together. Teach your kids that any act of control or violence is a warning sign, and they may need to reconsider the relationship, even if the other person apologizes and promises to never do it again. Controlling behaviors and violence in a relationship usually do not improve or go away. Instead, the behavior often escalates.
- Empower bystanders with ideas on how to get help. It can be painful to watch a friend be abused by their romantic partner and not know what to do. Abuse is an extremely difficult subject to discuss with a friend, but teens need to realize that remaining silent when someone they care about is being hurt does not fix the situation.
- Become a trusted information source. Resist the urge to allow locker room talk, slumber parties, and television to become your teen's only source of information. Initiate conversations about relationships and don’t avoid uncomfortable topics. Discuss the importance of respect in a relationship and make sure your teen knows that they deserve respect. Likewise, they need to be respectful to others.
- Discuss healthy relationships. Most teens view dating and relationships through a romantic lens. In the beginning, they are excited, happy, and filled with hope. Be supportive of these expectations, but also prepare them for the normal ups and downs of relationships. Make sure they know that while disagreements are normal, handling them in an aggressive or disrespectful way is not normal.
- Teach Assertiveness. Equipping kids and teens with the ability to clearly state their feelings, opinions, and desires is one of the best things a parent can do.
- Talk about healthy and unhealthy behaviors. One of the first behaviors to discuss is the difference between control and collaboration. It is not uncommon for kids to want their way. But they need to learn that this cannot always be the case. Explain that trying to "control" a situation by manipulating, demanding, or even bullying is not healthy. Instead, a better, healthier alternative would be to negotiate, problem-solve, or collaborate. Likewise, if someone in their life, either a bullying boyfriend or a mean girl, tries to control a situation rather than work together to find a solution, they need to recognize that this is not healthy.
- Know when to get involved. Any time you recognize small changes in your child's behavior, like a change in mood, sleeping patterns, or eating habits, you should take notice. Even a drop in grades, fewer friends hanging around, or dropping a once favorite sport are causes for concern. Often these changes are early warning signs that something is going on in your teen's life that is upsetting them. If your teen is being abused, do not try to handle the situation on your own. The most effective plans for getting your daughter or son out of an abusive relationship involve a team of people including you, a school professional, and sometimes even the police.
If you would like to know more about teen dating violence or domestic abuse, please contact Jennifer Davis at Turning Point of South Arkansas by calling 870-862-3672, or visit www.endallviolence.org. (sources: loveisrespect.com and verywellfamily.com).
Turning Point is a comprehensive domestic violence center providing safe emergency shelter, emotional support, social service referrals, and other information to victims of domestic violence and their children at no charge. Their mission is to work towards solving family violence to help abused persons and children cope with fears and anxieties; to find refuge; to learn, to grow, and to make positive decisions for their future welfare.
SHARE Foundation is a non-profit in Union County whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of the community. The Union County Violence Intervention Plan (VIP) was developed in order to make available a network of area supports, opportunities, and activities focused on best practice strategies for a community committed to changing the odds for individuals and families in need. The VIP can be viewed at www.sharefoundation.com.