Each year in February, the nation is reminded of the continued need to bring attention to a public health concern that often goes unseen. As we enter Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, let’s all take a minute to remember the scope of this problem and the role that each and every one of us has in protecting the teens in our lives.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 1 in 12 teens surveyed reported having experienced physical dating violence and 1 in 12 reported having experienced sexual dating violence. Females and members of the LGBTQ+ community may have rates even higher than the teen population as a whole. What this means is that just under 10% of teens today are survivors of teen dating violence and it’s time for us all to become more aware and educated about the topic and the role we play in fighting those unacceptable statistics.
What to watch out for?
Teen dating violence can come in many forms including physical and sexual violence, emotional abuse and stalking. Some of the wounds may be visible, while others come in the form of emotional harm that is hard to see from the outside.
As a parent or guardian of a teen or just an adult with a teen in their life, it is important to know what you may notice if someone has found themselves in a teen dating violence situation. While the effects of this kind of trauma may look different for everyone, there are some general signs and symptoms that may raise a red flag. The teen may seem more withdrawn and spend less time with others in their social circle than they previously did. They may be more reluctant to answer questions about the individual and may or may not bring them around family. It’s possible that someone might observe signs of physical or sexual violence like cuts, bruises or broken bones. As a result of the emotional toll that these relationships can have, you may see common signs of depression and anxiety like changes in eating and sleeping habits, sadness, crying, excessive worrying and changes in school or work achievement.
What to do if you suspect a teen in your life is a victim of teen dating violence?
Start by remembering that minor aged teens are given extra protection under the law that serve as safeguards against abuse of all kinds. Each state has laws regarding the abuse of minors and reporting requirements and everyone should familiarize themselves with those processes. Don’t hesitate to call law enforcement if needed. Remember that in violent and abusive relationships, manipulation is almost always part of the undercurrent that keeps the relationship flowing. This means that addressing your concerns with the teen may be met with anger, denial, embarrassment or fear. Be patient as you discuss your thoughts, feelings and observations. Contact your local domestic violence agency or a local mental health provider for assistance right away. As a guardian, also consider contacting your child’s doctor for additional support. Remind the teen that abuse and violence are never ok.
Never. Spread the word.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
National Centers for Victims of Crime: (NCVC) 1-800-FYI-CALL
National Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474
#Teendatingviolence #mentalhealth #counseling