February is teen dating abuse awareness month. Throughout the month of February, teens and organizations across the country have been working together to raise awareness about teen dating violence. As a dating abuse prevention educator February is my busiest month (which is why it has taken me so long to write this blog). Every week I visit the schools in my community to discuss dating violence, healthy relationships and how to recognize warning signs. I speak with students from 7th grade all the way through college about their experiences. I am proud of what I do and I am grateful to work in a community that considers these issues important enough to discuss with our children all throughout they year. I wish I could say the same for the community I live in. Not every district or county recognizes the importance of discussing healthy relationships, which is shocking considering the statistics (see below). I have tried on more than one occasion to bring presentations similar to the ones I do in other communities to my son’s school to no avail. The question is why aren’t some schools or some communities talking about dating violence?
The simple answer is, it is not an easy subject to talk about. We are taught to ignore or to stay quiet when we see signs of abuse. We are not encouraged to talk about abusive behaviors in relationships. If you are parents, it's even more challenging to open a conversation with your child about relationships. Where do you begin, and at what age?
It is important to recognize that dating abuse affects everyone. It knows no boundaries and crosses all barriers. It can and does happen to anyone, at any time at any age all around the world. The repercussions are far-reaching and impossible to ignore. According to loveisrespect.org violent relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications by putting the victims at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and further domestic violence. It affects children, their families, their schools and their communities.
It can be difficult to talk to your children or a young person in your life about relationships, dating and especially sex but if you don’t, who will? We must talk to our youth about how to recognize warning signs, what a healthy relationship looks like and where to get help. Talk to them and listen to what they have to say. If you don’t know where to begin, I have listed resources for you below as well as some statistics.
Everyone deserves a healthy relationship. Not everyone knows what that looks like (especially when they are looking to the media and culture for examples but that is an entirely separate future blog post) so it is up to us to begin the conversation. Reach out to your local agencies; see if they can bring someone in to the schools to reinforce what you are teaching them at home. We can raise awareness, we can prevent violence in relationships and we can do that one talk at a time.
Did you know:
· 1 in 3 teens in the U.S. is the victim of physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse by a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds other types of youth violence.
· Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence (almost triple the national average).
· Violent relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications by putting victims at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behaviors, and further domestic violence.
· Eighty one percent of parents believe teen-dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue.
· One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.
· One in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
· One quarter of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse.
· Approximately 70% of college students say they have been sexually coerced.
There are many organizations doing incredible work focusing on relationship violence awareness and prevention. These are a few of my favorites.