Teen Dating Violence Awareness: Is Your Child At Risk?

February is associated with being in love and recognizing a special person as a valentine, but it is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. Friday not only Valentines Day but has been declared as National Respect Day, as part of the month-long awareness campaign.  However, while some teen sweethearts are exchanging candy & kisses, others are exchanging verbal & physical threats.  Our Troy counseling office would like to shed some light on the warning signs of an abusive relationship, plus ways to get help.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, one in three teens in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a partner. Women ages 16 to 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, which is triple the national average.  More alarming statistics can be read on the Break the Cycle website, a site dedicated to ending dating violence.

Signs teens and their friends should look for to determine if the relationship is abusive include:

While there are many warning signs of abuse, here are ten of the most common to look for:

  1. Partner who checks your cell phone or email without permission, doesn’t respect boundaries.
  2. Constant put-downs.
  3. Extreme jealousy or insecurity.
  4. Explosive temper.
  5. Isolating you from family or friends.
  6. Making false accusations.
  7. Mood swings.
  8. Physically hurting you in any way.
  9. Possessiveness.
  10. Telling you what to do.

The world of abuse has changed due to the level of constant contact as well.  Due to young couples being tied to each other 24/7 through Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging, a controlling, dominating relationship is easier for the abuser to achieve. Most abuse comes from electronic communications like: monitoring the whereabouts of a partner, posting intimate or embarrassing pictures of video of a partner, even name-calling on social media.

What can friends, family, and school personnel look for to determine if a teen is in an abusive relationship?

  • Constant emotional distress
  • Suspicious bruises in vulnerable, controllable areas like the neck and upper arms
  • Signs of panic when they’ve missed a call or text from their significant other
  • The need to ‘check-in’ frequently with their significant other when out with friends or family
  • Upsetting pictures posted to social media
  • Fear of ending the relationship due to the ramifications
  • Changes in attitude and personality, girls often become meeker and distant
  • Ostracizing from friends and family, limiting contact with those they were close to
  • Major changes to performance at school

If dating abuse or violence is suspected, it’s imperative to get the victim to an abuse counselor as soon as possible.  Mental health counseling is crucial to determine the extent of the psychological damage the victim might face, from PTSD to depression and suicidal thoughts.  Law enforcement might need to get involved in cases of physical abuse and stalking or harassment.

As always, keeping lines of communication open between teens and their family/friends/school staff is a step toward prevention and early detection.  Awareness is key, and abuse counseling is a strong step toward breaking the cycle of pain the victim suffers.

Signs of Dating Abuse: http://www.loveisrespect.org/is-this-abuse/is-this-abuse

Resources: http://www.teendvmonth.org/