Teen Dating Violence

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Every year, approximately 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner.
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According to surveys, 75% of parents have never talked to their children about domestic violence — and even more think it’s not an issue!
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Of teens who are abused in a violent relationship, only 1 in 3 will ever tell someone what happened. That means 67% of teen dating violence goes unreported.

It is perhaps America’s last great taboo when it comes to domestic abuse: teen dating violence.

It’s not that it doesn’t happen; it does. In fact, 1 in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or otherwise hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend. But it’s not often talked about. Among parents, 3 out of 4 say they’ve never talked to their kids about domestic violence and 81% don’t believe it’s an issue. Among teens, only 1 in 3 who are in a violent relationship ever tell anyone about the abuse. Read on to find out what you should know about teen dating violence.

“That amazing moment when your crush has a crush on you. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that the person who you want to be in a relationship with likes or loves you back.”

Those were the words of Morgan Pierce, describing young love. When we’re young and in love, abusive relationships are often the last thing on our mind. Every relationship, even the most fleeting ones, seem perfect in the moment. Unfortunately, these seemingly perfect relationships can all too often turn violent.

Here’s the truth: One in three adolescents in the United States is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. In fact, girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience a rate of intimate partner violence that’s almost three times the national average. By college, 43% of young women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors. And 1 in 6 has been sexually abused in a dating relationship.

It’s also known that you aren’t likely to tell anyone what happened if you are in a violent relationship; most don’t. But speaking out is important — not only for justice, but to get the help you need. Half of youth who have been victims of dating violence and rape attempt suicide, a rate that’s far higher than non-abused boys and girls. If you’re a girl, you’re six times more likely to become pregnant and twice as likely to get an STI. You need people who are in your corner. Together with your parents or guardians, the Scott County Family Justice Center can help you get the help you need.

Sometimes it’s possible to recognize the warning signs of dating abuse before relationships become violent. Here are a few signs of unhealthy relationships:

• Your partner embarrasses you in public.
• Your partner gets jealous when you spend time with friends.
• Your partner asks for the passwords to your phone and your social media.

Healthy relationships involve respect, trust and support — not jealousy!

Once physical abuse begins, you must get out. Remember, abusive behavior doesn’t have to cause pain or bruise to be unhealthy. Any of the following are examples of physical abuse:

• Scratching, punching, biting, strangling or kicking.
• Throwing something — like a shoe — at you.
• Hair-pulling.
• Pushing or pulling.
• Threatening you with a weapon.
• Forcing you to have sex.
• Grabbing your clothes.
• Grabbing your face to make you look at them.
• Grabbing you to prevent you from leaving.

If your partner has subjected you to any of those behaviors, it’s important to protect yourself. You can start by talking to an adult or someone else that you trust. Then, contact the Scott County Family Justice Center. We can help.

Abuse isn’t always physical. Verbal or psychological abuse can be just as damaging. If your partner constantly criticizes you and says things to make you think you’re ugly, stupid, worthless and not worthy of being in a relationship with someone else, that can be just as unhealthy as physical abuse.

If you’ve suffered a sexual assault, it’s important to tell someone what happened. You can start with someone you trust, but you should also report what happened to the police. If you’re no longer in the presence of your attacker and you feel safe enough to do so, you can start by calling the Scott County FJC and we can put you in touch with the proper authorities. If you’ve been sexually assaulted, it’s important to seek medical assistance as soon as possible so that you can receive medications to prevent pregnancy or sexual transmitted infections.

Help is available! Call 423-663-6638 to speak to someone NOW!

» Download the MyPlan app if you’re unsure how healthy your relationship is. The app can help teens determine if their relationship is unhealthy, and help develop an action plan.

As parents, it’s difficult to believe that our children could be victims of dating violence. Unfortunately, it’s a very real possibility. Research shows that 1 in 10 teens experience dating violence. And 2 out of 3 will never tell anyone what happened, meaning it’s incumbent upon us, as parents, to remain vigilant and to be aware of warning signs that our dating age son or daughter is being mistreated.

• Your teen has lost interest in activities they once enjoyed.
• Your teen suddenly becomes more critical of themselves and the way they look.
• Your teen becomes secretive, unwilling to share things with you.
• Your teen makes sudden changes to their appearance.
• Your teen stops showing interest in their friends.
• Your teen’s academic performance begins to suffer.
• Your teen begins to suffer from anxiety or depression.
• Your teen has unexplained bruises or other injuries.
• Your teen becomes isolated from family or friends.
• You notice your teen’s boyfriend or girlfriend exhibiting unhealthy jealousy.

If you recognize concerning symptoms, it’s important to have a discussion with your teen. Don’t give them an ultimatum to leave break off their relationship with their partner; your well-intended intervention could cause them to feel isolated and controlled, which could do more harm than good. It’s more important to talk to them, one-on-one. If you decide, together, that it’s time to seek help, the Scott County Family Justice Center can help.

The most important thing you can do for your teen is to have a talk with them before they begin dating, then regularly communicate with them throughout their teenage years. According to studies, as many as 3 in 4 parents never talk to their children about domestic violence. Make sure your teen knows before they begin to date that controlling partners and abusive behavior is not okay!

‘I just want to feel safe’

A teen’s first-hand account of surviving dating violence.

» Read