Did you know that 57 percent of teens know someone who has been physically, sexually, or verbally abusive in a dating relationship? How about that one in five female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner?
Going along with this number, one in three teens report knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped or physically hurt by their dating partners.
These statistics and more were discussed recently by Ebony Young, executive director at Unique Interventions for Youth, located at 800 Main Street at Westview Behavioral Heath Services. Young, along with other local perspectives were given at a teen dating violence information session on Feb. 27.
This past month was Teen Dating Violence Awareness month. Why is that important, you may ask. Personally, before attending the session, I may have asked myself the same question. I didn’t really know just how many forms of interactions could be considered “dating violence.”
According to the CDC, dating violence is a type of intimate partner violence that occurs between two people in a close relationship. The nature of dating violence can range from physical abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, or sexual abuse. Young, along with the other speakers, talked with teens and their families to first discuss the dangers of unhealthy relationships, but to also discuss the benefits of what exactly a healthy relationship is and why they’re so important for teens.
Niele Andrews, a victim’s advocate, offered advice to teens about keeping their passwords safe from their significant others, pin numbers to debit/credit cards, as well as keeping location services off of social media. Andrews explained the dangers of stalking, especially in cases she’s handled with relationships “gone bad.” The dangers of cyber dating were also discussed, where Andrews said to beware of photos teens sometimes send to one another, especially when a relationship ends.
“They’ll put what they have to get back at you,” Andrews said. “You’ve put it out there so it’s hard for us to prosecute at that point.”
Not only were the effects of teen dating violence exposed to teens and families present, but the dangers of children being exposed to violence within the home at an early age. Children that are exposed to violence in their homes from the time they’re young, often react to witnessing such things with behavior such as shaking, crying, poor sleeping, yelling, hiding, and clinging to parents.
As they grow older, they show similar effects to those of emotional abuse such as over-compliance to fearfulness, conflicted about taking sides with parents, bed-wetting, nightmares, and more. Because they’ve grown up witnessing violence, whether physical or emotional within the home, they also have no perception of that being wrong, when they go out to make relationships of their own.
Warning signs of teen dating violence are extreme jealousy, controlling behavior, using force during an argument, alcohol and drug use, explosive anger, verbally abusive, and blaming others for problems or feelings. Young women involved in dating violence may believe they are responsible for solving problems in their relationship, or that abuse is normal because their friends are also being abused. They may also chalk up their boyfriend’s jealousy, possessiveness or even physical abuse as being romantic or complimentary.
Young men who experience abuse may believe they have the right to control their partners if necessary, that they should demand intimacy, or that they may lose respect if they are attentive and supportive toward a girlfriend.
Misty Cooper with Sistercare Inc. told teens that the average number of times a person continues to go back to someone who is abusing them is eight times. Although that sounds shocking, Cooper said she sees it every day within her line of work.
The most important thing for a teen, or even an adult who is experiencing dating violence is to know they’re not alone. There are organizations such as Sistercare, Westview Behavioral Health Services, and others that are there to listen, not judge, and help get you back on track.
A healthy relationship should be loving, trusting, open in communication, and most of all make you feel good about yourself. Don’t settle for anything less than that.
Elyssa Parnell is a staff writer for The Newberry Observer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.