Teen Dating Violence: What parents and teens need to know
Nearly 1.5 million high school students in the United States are physically abused by dating partners every year (NCADV). That’s not a small number. According to a survey through NCADV, majority (81%) of parents believe that teen dating violence is not an issue or don’t know if it’s an issue. With teen dating violence becoming an increasingly prevalent issue, it is important for parents to understand the red flags and warning signs of dating abuse. It is also important for teens to know that they deserve to be loved while feeling safe and respected.
Common red flags of dating abuse include:
- Checking your cell phone and social media without permission
This is an abusive partner’s way of monitoring your communications. This can be asking what your password to your phone is, demanding to look through text messages, etc.
- Jealousy and Insecurity
In the beginning of the relationship, jealousy may appear as a sign of love. But as time progresses, this may turn into your abusive partner accusing you of flirting or even cheating, and being jealous of time you spend with friends/family/hobbies that don’t include them. Jealousy is a sign of insecurity and possessiveness.
This is verbal abuse that trivializes or minimizes your thoughts, feelings, or experiences. This makes you feel as if your feelings don’t matter or are wrong.
- Isolating you from friends and family
This is an abusive partner’s way of limiting your social interaction. They may prevent you from spending time with friends or family. Even demanding that you go places together. This can escalate to the abusive partner trying to limit interactions in existing relationships or even preventing you from creating new ones.
- Explosive Temper
Anger is normal from time to time. However, when your partner gets angry for no reason and demonstrates explosive anger that is not normal. This temper can be used to control your behavior and intimidate you. It may not be an issue at first, but explosive behavior can escalate into other behaviors such as emotional and/or physical abuse.
- Dealing with constant mood swings from your abusive partner
One second your partner is loving and telling you how much he appreciates you and cannot live without you. Seconds later, something little upsets them (for example, you forget to tell them that you can’t go to dinner with them because you have soccer practice) and they start becoming angry and insulting towards you.
- Physical abuse
This can look like your abusive partner pushing you, slapping you, choking you. Any kind of forceful and physical abuse that is used to control and intimidate you.
- Controlling and demanding behavior
This looks like an abusive partner controlling where you go, who you talk to, and what you do. This behavior stems from jealousy and is one of the most frequent types of abuse our caller’s experience.
- Pressuring to have sex
Abusive partners often use sexual abuse as a tactic to keep power and control over you. This can appear as any of the following: physically forcing a sexual act, guilitng you for not “giving in” to sex, continually begging for sexual interaction, forcing you to have sex after a physical assault, or making a partner perform a sex act they do not want to do.
As a parent:
Parenting an adolescent can be difficult because this is the time when your teen is experiencing significant emotional, psychological, and physical changes. Being a teenager in today’s society is so demanding and challenging. Our teens are so much more vulnerable and susceptible to abuse in relationships and as a parent that can be hard to grasp.
At this time, it may seem as though your children will start to turn away from you and seek independence, but understand they still need you. This is the time when teens form initial relationships that set the stage for all of their future relationships. From the age of 16-24, teens experience domestic violence at the highest rate of any group. That rate is nearly 3x the national average. Education will be key in prevention (ncadv.org).
It is important to start the conversation early by letting them know what healthy relationships look and feel like, and also what unhealthy and abusive relationships look like. If you look back on our previous blog, you will see descriptions of both types of relationships (http://www.survivorshelpline.org/blog-post.php?post=166). As a parent you want to be able to tell if your teen is in an unsafe relationship and how you can support them. If you suspect that your teen may be experiencing abuse, know that as a parent you are an amazing resource and advisor for them. Remind them that they deserve a violence free relationship, and that abuse is never acceptable and never their fault. If you need support and resources please don’t hesitate to reach out. We are here to be a listening ear to your parenting joys and challenges.
As a teen:
It can be hard to acknowledge you are experiencing abuse, let alone want to open up to your parents and ask for help. Whether it be physical, emotional, digital, or any types of the abuse mentioned above; know that there is support out there for you. Whether it be your parents, school counselor, or advocate, know that you are not alone.
Whether you are deciding to end the relationship or not, it is important for you to start thinking of ways to keep yourself safe from the abuse. While it can be difficult to control and predict your partner’s abusive behavior, you can control your reaction and how to keep yourself as safe as possible.
- Staying safe at school
This means knowing where to leave if there is an emergency, safe places on campus, friends that can walk with you, safest way to get to and from school, etc.
- Staying safe at home
This means telling family members about the relationship, knowing when you will be alone and having people that can stay with you, safe way to leave the house in case of emergency, safe place to leave in case of emergency, and a code word you can use to alert friends/family/neighbors to call for help without your abusive partner knowing about it.
- Staying safe emotionally
In addition to staying safe in situations physically, it is also important to know how to stay safe emotionally. Recognizing what they say to make you feel bad, and thinking of reasons why you know they are wrong.
Focusing on doing things you enjoy, joining new clubs and organizations at schools, knowing who to reach out to when you feel sad, anxious, scared, or depressed.
- Access to resources
Also knowing local resources in your community such as: campus police station, campus health center, campus counselor, outreach advocates, etc. This is something advocates at our call center can help plan and organize with you as well.
Know that you deserve to feel safe and respected. You have the right to say no at any time. You have the right to privacy, both online and offline. When it comes to the relationship you are in, you are the expert and deciding to stay or leave is only a decision you can make. Whatever you decide, we will support you.