Many people think of domestic violence and unhealthy relationships, and likely think of adults. Unfortunately, teen dating violence is much more common than people think.
Adolescents are especially vulnerable to dating violence as many are entering relationships for the first time. The effects of those unhealthy relationships tend to last much longer than the relationship itself. Teens in abusive relationships will often bring the same unhealthy patterns of violence into future relationships. Many continue those patterns without an understanding that they are unhealthy and should not be accepted.
Statistics show 1 in 3 teens (ages 12-18) in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse by someone with whom they are in a relationship. Nearly half (43%) of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive behaviors from a dating partner.
That is why it is important to understand and recognize the warning signs. Being able to tell the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships can be difficult because no two relationships are the same. Bringing awareness to this issue is the first step in preventing dating abuse.
So, how can you help a teenager in your life prevent dating violence?
- Stay connected and ask questions about how their relationships are going.
- Encourage them to participate in activities outside of the relationship, with family and friends, be non-judgmental and let them know that you are available to talk to if something is concerning them.
While you are trying to help someone that is experiencing dating violence, remember that you cannot “rescue” them. They are ultimately the one who must make the decision on what they want to do. Although it is difficult to witness someone you care about get hurt, it is important to show support and help them find a way to safety and peace. Having conversations about how healthy relationships include respect, trust, independence, kindness, and communication helps teens know that if something happens, that you are someone they can turn to.
Becoming informed about local resources can be helpful. There are free and confidential resources available in the community. ACCORD in Allegany County (1-800-593-5322) and Connecting Communities in Action (CCA) in Cattaraugus County (1-888-945-3970) both have trained advocates to help those who may be experiencing relationship violence.
Remember Prevention Works!
By Kathlyn Ramey, Prevention Education & Outreach Coordinator, Connecting Communities in Action – Victim Services