February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Dating violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner. Teens can prevent dating abuse before it starts and intervene when friends need help.
One in three girls in the U.S. is a victim of abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence. Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.Teen dating violence can have serious ramifications and place victims at higher risk for future harm, such as substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and future domestic violence.
Dating abuse red flags
- being physically hurt
- feeling afraid of your dating partner
- feeling isolated, maybe even alone
- losing your friends
- changing your behavior because of your dating partner’s jealousy
- feeling embarrassed, put down, ashamed, or guilty
- being threatened
- feeling manipulated or controlled
- being afraid to express your own feelings of anger
- feeling a nervous or sick feeling in your stomach when your dating partner is irritated, frustrated, or angry
- feeling a pounding or fluttering in your chest when your dating partner isn’t happy
- not being allowed to, or being afraid to, make decisions for yourself
- noticing that your dating partner has very traditional (stereotypical) beliefs about women and men
- noticing that your dating partner’s beliefs about the position of men and women in society are different from your own
- feeling as if your dating partner gets too personal or touches you in an unwanted way
- not having your thoughts or wishes for personal space respected
How to help a friend who is in an abusive relationship
- Believe the story. Listen and believe your friend. Acknowledge feelings and let your friend know that he or she is not alone.
- Tell the person that he or she didn’t deserve to be abused. The perpetrated abuse isn’t your friend’s fault. No one deserves to be abused.
- Let your friend make his or her own decisions. Respect your friend’s right to make a decision when she or he is ready. Each of us is an expert on our own life.
- Don’t gossip. Talk in private. Don’t tell other people without your friend’s permission.
- Make a safety plan. What has your friend done in the past to keep safe from the abuse? Is it working? Can she or he escape to a safe place if necessary?
- Know the resources in your community. Call AVDA for help at 713-224-9911.
Much of this information is from the Safe Dates curriculum, which AVDA facilitates in area schools.