By Janae Briggs, Youth Services Prevention and Outreach Case Manager
Since February is the month of Love, it is a good reminder to re-educate ourselves on the dangers and prevalence of dating violence.
If you have a healthy relationship, you can expect honesty respect, trust, compromise and equality. Unfortunately too many teens are in unhealthy relationships. A national survey found that ten percent of teens, female and male, had been the victims of physical dating violence within the past year and approximately 29% of adolescents reported being verbally or psychologically abused within the previous year.
Teen dating violence can be any one, or a combination, of the following:
• Physical. This includes pinching, hitting, shoving, or kicking.
• Emotional. This involves threatening a partner or harming his or her sense of self-worth. Examples include name calling, controlling/jealous behaviors, consistent monitoring, shaming, bullying (online, texting, and in person), intentionally embarrassing him/her, keeping him/her away from friends and family.
• Sexual. This is defined as forcing a partner to engage in a sex act when he or she does not or cannot consent.
If teens are involved in unhealthy relationships, it can negatively affect future development of healthy sexuality, intimacy, and identity as youth grow into adulthood. It can also increase the risk of physical injury, poor academic performance, binge drinking, suicide attempts, unhealthy sexual behaviors, substance abuse, negative body image and self-esteem.
Some key steps to help prevent teen dating violence include the focus on reducing risk factors as well as fostering protective factors by empowering teens through strong healthy relationships with family, friends, teachers, coaches, mentors or youth group leaders. It is important to create spaces, such as school communities, where the behavioral norms are not tolerant of abuse in dating relationships. The message must be clear that treating people in abusive ways will not be accepted, and policies must enforce this message to keep students safe. When teens see and are exposed to models of healthy relationships they are much more likely to recognize signs in their own relationships. This could be the key to ending an abusive relationship before it gets too involved and harder to get out of.
Since teens often keep the abuse a secret, there needs to be resources in place that encourage teens to reach out to trusted adults like parents, teachers, school counselors, youth advisors or health care providers. They also need to feel safe that there will be no retaliation by reporting the abuse.
Teens can report abuse anonymously through the following resources: The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)/Utah Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-897-LINK (5465).
Salt Lake County Youth Services is also a great resource if you are 12-18 years of age and feel you need a Safe Place. You can also use Text4Help: Text “SAFE” with your current location (address/city/state) to 69866 and find a place with the Safe Place sign displayed in the window or on the door. Someone will be able to assist you in finding safety and accessing crisis counseling.
1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011
2. CDC, 2010
3. Halpern, Oslak, Young, Waller, Markin, & Kupper, 2001
4. Foshee & Reyes, 2009
5. CDC, 2012
See more at: www.youth.gov