No one is immune to dating violence. In fact, there are multiple risk factors for both guys and gals alike. One in three teens in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. According to LoveIsRespect.org, violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18. As teens are entering dating relationships, it’s vital to address what abuse looks like, how to handle it and when to report it. Statistics show that because teens are profoundly influenced by their relationship experiences, they are also likelier to face intimate partner violence in some form or another. A national survey found that 23% of females and 14% of males who ever experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner first experienced some form of partner violence between the ages of 11 and 17.
The signs of dating abuse aren’t always obvious. Usually, a pattern of violent or abusive behaviors evolve and escalate over time, but there is no “cookie-cutter” example of how intimate partner violence can grow or develop. Teen dating violence can take a number of forms, such as physical abuse, verbal or emotional abuse, sexual abuse, or digital abuse. Physical abuse is any intentional use of force with the intent to case fear or injury. Verbal or emotional abuse can be revealed through threats, insults, humiliation, or stalking. Sexual abuse impacts a person’s ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which such activity occurs. Digital abuse is the use of technology or social media to intimidate, harass or threaten. Dating abuse is complex; these examples are just the tip of the iceberg.
Teens who believe that violence is acceptable are understandably more at risk, but those who suffer from depression or anxiety are equally susceptible. When teens engage in drug use or sexual intercourse, their risk for dating violence increases exponentially. Similarly, teens who are victims of dating violence in high school tend to be at greater risk for victimization during college because of the long-term physical and psychological effects of abuse. A number of outcomes can emerge during or after someone experiences intimate partner abuse: anxiety, depression, tobacco use, drug use, and thoughts of suicide are just a sampling. Likewise, teens that witness violence or unhealthy relationships at home are at greater risk for experiencing the same.
Ensuring that teens have the tools they need to identify the signs of dating violence is imperative in preventing abuse. In addition to identifying the signs, teens need to know where they can turn for help and, most importantly, that there is no shame in asking for help – even if they aren’t sure that what they’re experiencing is actually dating violence.Respect & Resolve, 3rd Millennium Classrooms’ course for high school students that focuses on a myriad of abuse patterns and resolutions, for both victims and offenders. When teens, parents, and the community support each other by raising awareness, dating violence can be prevented.
by Meagan Sanders, M. Ed.