What Everyone Should Know about Teen Dating Violence

Written by  //  August 6, 2014  //  FAMILY & LEISURE  // 

teen couple

By Minister Patrina M, Johnson, LAPC

Teen Dating Violence is the one of the fastest growing categories of Domestic Violence. Teen dating violence affects young people of all races, cultures, genders, and sexual orientations. There are many barriers that prevent teens from seeking help. Teens may have limited dating experience; they may be too embarrassed to tell parents or don’t want to get their partners in trouble. They may think parents will forbid them from dating this person.  Teens may mistake controlling and isolating behaviors as love and care. For example: “Tell your friends Joe and Betty we won’t double date with them because I want you all to myself.” The way media sometimes portray abusive behaviors may make it seem normal and acceptable to teens.  The rise in social media may contribute to this behavior with cyber bullying and sexting.  Adolescence is a time of acute emotions. The highs are very high and the lows are very low and this makes it hard to dissimulate appropriate feelings.

Teen dating violence includes physical abuse, but is not limited to it. It also includes:

  • Emotional Abuse – wearing down a partner’s self-worth or self-esteem.
  • Sexual Abuse – any sexual act that is forced against someone’s will.
  • Electronic Aggression – emotional or sexual abuse that carries over to cyberspace.

Teen dating violence is based on one partner gaining and maintaining power and control over the other partner. Recognizing the signs of teen dating violence can be important. These are some of the danger signs parents, teachers, clergy, other adults and peers can look out for:

  • Suspicious bruises or injuries
  • Failing grades
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
  • Excusing their partner’s abusive behavior
  • Needing to respond immediately to their partner’s calls or texts
  • Fearfulness around their partners
  • Sudden changes in school attendance or routine.

Once any of these indicators are observed there are specific things to be done. First, when you begin to address these issues, talk to the teen alone and in an unfamiliar place. Maybe go for a drive or to a restaurant where you are not known. Think about relationships you experienced when you were a teenager. Don’t be judgmental — this will only serve to alienate the teen. Ask open-ended questions like “How are things going?”; “What are your friends’ dating relationships like?”; “Have you seen any kinds of abuse in a relationship?”; If so, “How did it make you feel?”; “What is the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy relationship?”

Explore their ideas about commitment, mutual respect and trust. Parents should be prepared for what you may hear. Effective communication is vitally important. It is our natural tendency as parents to want to protect our children, but ending the relationship has to be the teen’s decision. Try to be supportive and understanding and equip them with all the knowledge and insight to aid the in making healthy choices.

According to Georgia Domestic Violence Fatality Review Project, 51% of victims began their relationship with the person who eventually killed them when they were between the ages of 13 and 24. 26% of the victims were between the ages of 13 to 19. Once you have discovered teen dating violence is involved, you can help the teen develop a safety plan.  First come up with a code word or phrase only designated adults will know that means the teen is in trouble. The teen should always let you or someone they trust know where they are going. They should have someone they can call to pick them up.  If the teen decides to end the relationship, choose a populated area to do it safely. They should not try to end the relationship when their partner is in a rage or out of control. Encourage them to talk with the school counselor or a teacher they trust and apprise them of the situation. Provide them with the number to the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1 800 799-SAFE (7233).  The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies. We must talk to our sons about healthy relationships as well as our daughters.

Interested in learning more? Visit our website at www.savscc.org

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Patrina Moss Johnson headshot Minister Patrina M, Johnson, LAPC, is the Founder and Director of Seaport Christian Counseling in Savannah, GA.  Seaport Christian Counseling is a State-Certified Domestic Violence Program. They work with offenders by using evidence-based methods that deal with the core issues of power and control. Minister Johnson earned a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Walden University. She has worked as a Family Violence Group Facilitator since 2010. She believes secular knowledge along with spiritual enlightenment achieves lasting positive change. The company’s slogan is “Violence is like an unsharpened pencil – it has no point.”

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