We all have heard of domestic violence. However, there is another quiet epidemic that is affecting our youths in middle and high schools—dating violence.
These are the critical years when our children begin to become interested and engage in their first romantic relationships. However, because of their age, they usually aren’t at the maturity and experience level to understand the consequential impact of an unhealthy and abusive relationship.
Studies show that one in three teens experience some form of dating violence. Unfortunately, once initiated, these unhealthy relationship patterns can become acceptable into their adulthood. Many don’t realize that anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, regardless of race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or economic status.
The importance of our teens having the knowledge and resources at an earlier age could potentially help stop the escalation of dating violence into domestic violence. The problem is that many students are reluctant to reach out for help, because they are embarrassed or scared about the mandated reporting implemented by the education system. Having resources available to the student/teen who may be hesitant to report the abuse is invaluable. Teachers and administrators also need to be equipped with the proper knowledge and training in order to not only assist the teen with getting the help they need, but also being able to have a system in place for the teens that wish to get help anonymously.
What Is It?
Dating violence is controlling, abusive and aggressive behavior in a romantic relationship. It can happen in straight or gay relationships. It can include verbal, emotional, physical or sexual abuse, or a combination.
According to the website loveisrespect.org, warning signs include when a partner:
Consistently checks your cellphone or e-mail without permission
Constantly puts you down
Is extremely jealous or insecure
Has an explosive temper
Isolates you from family or friends
Makes false accusations
Physically hurts you in any way
Tells you what to do
Repeatedly pressures you to have sex
If You Are a Victim of Dating Violence, You Might:
Feel isolated and alone (angry, sad, anxious, depressed or confused)
Feel helpless to stop the abuse.
Feel threatened or embarrassed.
Feel like you can’t talk to family and friends.
Fear that verbal or physical attacks will escalate
Feel protective of your boyfriend or girlfriend.
Being a victim of dating violence is not your fault. Nothing you say, wear or do gives anyone the right to physically or verbally hurt you.
If you think you are in an abusive relationship, get help immediately. Don’t keep your concerns to yourself.
Talk to someone you trust like a parent, teacher, school principal, counselor or nurse.
If you choose to tell, you should know that some adults are mandated reporters. This means they are legally required to report neglect or abuse to someone else, such as the police or child protective services. Some examples of mandated reporters are teachers, counselors, doctors, social workers, and in some cases, coaches or activity leaders. If you want help deciding to whom to talk, call a crisis line in your area.
Resources are available to you: Dating Violence Teen Tool Box offers resources to victims nationwide as well as training and technical support to victim service organizations
How You Can Help a Victim of Dating Violence
If you know someone who might be in an abusive relationship, you can help.
Offer your friendship and support.
Ask how you can help.
Encourage your friend to seek help.
Educate yourself about dating violence and healthy relationships.
Avoid any confrontations with the abuser. This could be dangerous for you and your friend.
Physical or Verbal Abuse of any kind should meet with zero tolerance. Domestic/Dating Violence can be confusing and scary at any age. It is our duty as adults to protect our teens and inform them that love shouldn’t hurt.
Family and educators’ involvement in arming our youths with the proper knowledge and resources is critical in our continued support for non-violence in teen dating relationships. We can make a difference!
For more information:
National Center of Victims of Crime 2015, loveisrespect.org
Jill Assalti is a motivational speaker and author. You can visit her online at www.Jillography.com.