6 Facts You Need to Know About Teen Dating Violence
February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. Teen Dating Violence (TDV) is a serious problem that deserves attention for more than one month out of the year.
Keep reading for the seven most important things you need to know about TDV.
1. What is Teen Dating Violence?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define TDV as “physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence” that occurs within a dating relationship.
Such behaviors might include: teasing or other emotional bullying, preventing the victim from desired contact with friends and family, hitting, shoving, forcing or coercing the partner into non-consensual sexual activities, spreading sexual rumors or photographs, and stalking either online, over SMS, or in person.
Maybe teasing or name-calling doesn’t sound too serious, but these borderline abusive behaviors pave the road for further abuse. Whether or not the current relationship becomes more harmful, TDV sets a pattern of low expectations for future relationships, and negatively impacts emotional development.
Young teens who experience unhealthy relationships are more likely to experience depression, engage in substance abuse, and be victims of future sexual abuse.
According to a 2011 CDC survey, 23% of adult females who experienced abuse by an intimate partner had already been a victim of partner violence between the ages of 11 and 17.
And 9% of high school students surveyed reported having been purposely physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past year.
Approximately 60% of all rapes reported to crisis centers were perpetrated by someone the victim knew.
These TDV statistics are probably lower than the reality. Teen dating violence frequently goes unreported because victims are afraid to speak out.
3. What causes TDV?
Unhealthy examples of relationships in the media contribute to the normalization of violence in relationships in the minds of teens.
Young teens who exhibit aggressive behaviors toward peers might find dating violence acceptable, but many of the factors that increase risk for being harmed, and for perpetuating dating violence, are the same. Some risk factors are:
- Trauma symptoms like depression and anxiety
- Substance abuse
- Early sexual activity, especially having multiple partners
- Conflict with the partner
- Violence in the home
- Difficulty communicating
4. Recognizing TDV
Many victims of TDV are unaware of it. Inexperience, or having witnessed similar behaviors in a friend’s, parent’s or older sibling’s relationships often lead teens to think that things like hitting or threats are a normal part of intimacy. They’re not. While evidence of physical abuse may be easy to spot (though they are often in unseen places, covered up by makeup, or attributed to other causes), learn to recognize other signs of relationship violence.
The following behaviors may be present in a victim of dating violence:
- Academic performance declines
- Character changes (moodiness, argumentativeness)
- Makes frequent apologies for partner
- Excessive deference to partner
- “Checking in” with partner (before going places or seeing people, for approval)
- No longer sees other friends
- Seems upset after dates or phone calls with partner
- Starts putting her/himself down
5. How can we stop Teen Dating Violence?
Strategies for victims:
- Create a safety plan.
- Identify a trusted adult.
- Know a safe place to go.
- Memorize important phone numbers, since abusers may control cell phone use (1-866-331-9476 is the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline).
- Have a signal or code word so that family, teachers, or friends know when to call for help.
6. Violence Prevention
As a parent or concerned friend, what can you do about dating violence?
- Be involved: Listen to your teen.
- Give honest praise and encourage self-confidence. This helps teens value themselves, so they have higher expectations for how others should treat them, and don’t seek a “boost” by putting others down.
- Write to your state legislator to encourage the development of school programs that educate teens about dating violence.
If your teen is in need of help a Crossroads teen therapist is available. Visit our teen counseling page by clicking here or call 623-680-3486 to learn more.