Understanding dating violence & what we can do about it

by | Feb 18, 2021 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, where young people across the country join in a national effort to raise awareness about the issue of teen dating violence.

In the U.S., 1 in 3 teens will experience dating violence before they become adults, according to loveisrespect.org. Teen dating violence is much more common than people think, and it doesn’t only affect teenagers it impacts their parents, teachers, friends, and communities as well. 

Dating can be a fun part of life that many people experience for the first time as a teenager. It’s common to make mistakes when we are learning something new, just like riding a bike or trying a new sport, solving algebraic equations, or learning a new language. When it comes to dating and relationships, it’s important for young people to have the right information, good examples, and guidance.

 

What is teen dating violence?

Dating violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used by one partner to gain and maintain power and control over another partner. 

Abusive behavior includes any act that intimidates, threatens, manipulates, humiliates, isolates, frightens, terrorizes, coerces, blames, hurts, injures, or wounds someone. 

Physical Abuse: hitting, biting, shoving, hair pulling, scratching

Emotional or Psychological Abuse: name calling, bullying, shaming, intentionally embarrassing, constant monitoring

Sexual Abuse: forcing, coercing, or manipulating a person to engage in a sexual act against or without their explicit consent. 

Stalking: repeatedly following or harassing a teen partner in a way that causes them reasonable fear for their safety or well-being.

Dating violence can be done in person, electronically, or by social media. It can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, financial status, race, gender, sexual orientation, or background. 

 

How do I know if my relationship is abusive?

No two relationships look the same, and different people can define relationships differently. However, there are a few essential things that must be present in a healthy relationship. These key elements include respect, trust, equality, honesty, communication, boundaries, and consent.

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell when a behavior is healthy, unhealthy, or abusive. Some warning signs of an abusive relationship include:

  • Constant belittling or put-downs 
  • Isolation from friends or family
  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Physically inflicting pain or hurt in any way
  • Making false accusations
  • Possessiveness or controlling behavior
  • Checking cell phones, emails, or social media accounts without permission
  • Pressuring or forcing to have sex or engage in sexual acts

 

How can I help someone who is experiencing dating violence?

It can be difficult to know what to say to a friend, student, classmate, child, or loved one who is experiencing dating abuse. But don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who you think needs help. Let them know that you care about them and want to support them. Here are some things you might say:

“You don’t deserve this. You deserve to be treated with respect.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“Thank you for trusting me.”

“I’m glad you told me.”

It’s important to be supportive and listen patiently. Acknowledge their feelings and be respectful of their decisions. Help them recognize that the abuse is not “normal” and is not their fault. 

It can be difficult and scary to open up about abuse, and young people may feel hesitant to tell an adult for fear they will overreact, blame them, or be angry. Adults need to be supportive and non-accusatory. Showing skepticism or disbelief can make anyone feel unsupported and isolated. 

Believe someone when they are brave enough to share their experience with you. 

One of the most important things you can do to help someone is to connect them with resources that can give them more information, support, and guidance. 

 

What resources are available for someone who has experienced/is experiencing dating violence?
  • DOVE Center advocates are available 24 hours a day to answer questions, provide community referrals and other resources, or just to listen. Call 435-628-0458
  • Love Is Respect has a lot of resources and learning materials for young people and adults, as well as live digital chat. Or, 24/7 you can call 1-866-331-9474 or text LOVEIS to 22522! Parents can even call, chat or text to understand what someone may be going through and learn how to help.
  • Crisis Text Line, text HOME to 741741 and get support with a variety of issues including abuse, depression and thoughts of suicide.
  • RAINN is a 24/7 sexual assault hotline providing victim services for survivors of sexual assault. Call 800-656-HOPE or live chat at rainn.org
  • LGBT National Help Center — serving the LGBTQ+ Community by providing free and confidential peer support and local resources. Call 1-800-246-7743 or chat at www.glbthotline.org 
  • Brown Boi Project — is a community of people working across race and gender to eradicate sexism, homophobia and transphobia and create a healthy framework of masculinity and change. www.brownboiproject.org
  • StrongHearts — free, confidential, and culturally-relevant support for Native American and Alaska Native teens and young adults experiencing dating abuse and sexual violence is available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CST. Call: 844.7NATIVE (762.8483) or chat live at www.strongheartshelpline.org

Abuse is never okay. Everyone has the right to a safe, healthy, loving relationship.

Together, we can promote healthy, safe relationships and break the cycle of violence in our community. 

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