February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

February 15, 2021

Teen Dating Violence includes four types of behavior: Physical Violence Sexual Violence, Psychological Aggression, and Stalking.  It can take place in-person or electronically, such as repeated texting or posting sexual pictures of a partner online without consent. Teens often think some behaviors, like teasing and name-calling, are a “normal” part of a relationship—but these behaviors can become abusive and develop into serious forms of violence. Many teens do not report unhealthy behaviors, because they are afraid to tell family and friends.

Sadly, Teen Dating Violence is common. It affects millions of teens in the U.S. each year. Data from CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey indicate that: Nearly 1 in 11 female and approximately1 in 15 male high school students report having experienced physical dating violence in the last year. About 1 in 9 female and 1 in 36 male high school students report having experienced sexual dating violence in the last year.

The burden of Teen Dating Violence is not shared equally across all groups—sexual minority groups are disproportionately affected by all forms of violence, and some racial/ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected by many types of violence. If you are an adult who wants to have a positive impact on a teenager's life, start first by being a good listener. This means listening without judging. Remember many teens do not want to feel like you are telling them what to do. Building a trusting relationship is a process. Start by taking the time to be a good listener to the teenagers in your life.

Supporting the development of healthy, respectful, and nonviolent relationships has the potential to reduce the occurrence of Teen Dating Violence and prevent its harmful and long-lasting effects on individuals, their families, and the communities where they live. During the pre-teen and teen years, it is critical for youth to begin learning the skills needed to create and maintain healthy relationships. These skills include things like how to manage feelings and how to communicate in a healthy way. Adults should model healthy relationships to the teenagers in your life. This will help your teenager understand what a healthy relationship really looks like.

As a parent and/or trusted adult, make sure you are a safe person for your teens to share their concerns with.  Adolescent stress is at an all-time high. Teenagers worry about many things including loneliness, friendships, dating relationships, their future and the state of the world. Being a teen in today’s world is complicated. Technology and social media add to the complicated nature of relationships. You can help by being an adult who listens to their concerns and does not judge them. Give advice gently. Often your teen wants advice, but first they need to know that you care.

If you are a teenager experiencing abusive behaviors please reach out to a trusted adult or call our Safe Haven program at 419-289-8085, 24 hours a day/7 days a week.

-Jerry Strausbaugh, EdD, LPCC-S, Executive Director, Appleseed Community Mental Health Center

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