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  • Writer's pictureLani Byrd

Breaking the Silence: Unveiling the True Colors of Teen Dating Violence

Updated: Feb 8

Teen dating violence is a serious issue that affects countless young people worldwide. It encompasses sexual, physical, emotional, or verbal abuse within a dating relationship. Teens often lack the skills to recognize the signs of an unhealthy relationship, so educating them about what constitutes a healthy connection is crucial.


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DID YOU KNOW?


  • A study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence found that nearly 1 in 3 adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of dating violence.

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 11 high school students in the U.S. report experiencing physical dating violence each year.

  • While both genders can be victims of teen dating violence, studies indicate that girls are more likely to experience physical violence, while boys may experience more verbal and emotional abuse.

  • Teens who experience dating violence are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as substance abuse, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

  • Victims of teen dating violence are at an increased risk of being involved in abusive relationships in adulthood.

  • Many cases of teen dating violence go unreported. Fear, shame, and the perception that the abuse is normal can contribute to underreporting.


WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF TEEN DATING VIOLENCE?


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Physical Signs:

  • Unexplained injuries or bruises.

  • Frequent visits to the school nurse or health clinic.

  • Changes in clothing style to cover up injuries.

Emotional Signs:

  • Sudden changes in mood or behavior.

  • Signs of depression, anxiety, or withdrawal from friends and activities.

  • Low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness.

Behavioral Signs:

  • Excessive control or possessiveness from a partner.

  • Isolation from friends and family.

  • Difficulty concentrating in school or declining academic performance.

Communication Patterns:

  • Constant criticism, insults, or name-calling from a partner.

  • Isolation from communication with others, including monitoring phone calls and messages.

Social Signs:

  • Noticeable changes in social activities, such as avoiding social events.

  • A partner's attempts to control the victim's social life.

Digital Signs:

  • Cyberbullying or digital harassment.

  • Controlling behavior through social media or online platforms.

Sexual Signs:

  • Coercive or non-consensual sexual activities.

  • Pressure or manipulation related to sexual choices.


HOW CAN YOU HELP?

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Parents, educators, and friends need to be vigilant and provide support to teens who may be experiencing dating violence. Open communication and education are key components in preventing and addressing teen dating violence. Remember, your role is to support and guide, not to force decisions. If the situation is urgent or dangerous, do not hesitate to involve appropriate authorities or emergency services. Here are other ways you can help:


Listen Without Judgment:

  • Create a safe space for open communication. Let the person know that you are there to listen without judgment. Allow them to share their feelings and experiences at their own pace.

Believe and Validate:

  • Believe what they tell you and validate their feelings. Victims of teen dating violence may fear not being believed. Affirming their experiences can help build trust and support.

Respect Their Choices:

  • Understand that leaving an abusive relationship can be a complex and challenging decision. Respect their choices and avoid pressuring them. Offer support rather than ultimatums.

Provide Information:

  • Share resources about teen dating violence, its signs, and available support services. Knowledge empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their situation.

Encourage Professional Help:

  • Suggest reaching out to a counselor, therapist, or a helpline specializing in dating violence. Professional guidance can provide the necessary support and help them navigate their emotions.

Offer Safety Planning:

  • Work together to create a safety plan. This may involve identifying safe places, people to contact, and steps to take in an emergency. Having a plan can empower the individual to take control of their situation.

  • If the abuser has taken away the victim's phone, organizations such as the 911 Cell Phone Bank provide free phones to law enforcement and victim agencies. If you have unused cell phones, tablets, or other small electronic devices you are no longer using or that have been left behind in your company's lost-and-found room, consider donating these to the 911 Cell Phone Bank to assist victims in need.

Be Patient and Supportive:

  • Healing from teen dating violence takes time. Be patient and offer ongoing support. Encourage healthy coping mechanisms and activities that promote well-being.

Report Concerns:

  • If you are a teacher, counselor, or someone in a position of authority, follow your organization's guidelines for reporting abuse. It's essential to involve appropriate authorities to ensure the safety of the individual.

Maintain Confidentiality:

  • Respect the person's privacy. Avoid discussing the situation with others without their explicit consent. Confidentiality is crucial in building trust.

Educate and Raise Awareness:

  • Promote awareness about teen dating violence in your community, school, or social circles. Education is key to prevention and creating a supportive environment for those affected.

  • Make a meaningful impact in your community by hosting a Phone It Forward Charity Campaign. This is a volunteer event that allows individuals, businesses, and organizations the opportunity to 'pay it forward' by donating unused electronic devices to help vulnerable persons in their community. 

  • February 6th is #WearOrangeDay. Wear orange on February 6th to help create awareness about dating abuse and healthy vs. unhealthy relationships. Learn more here.


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By promoting respect, communication, trust, and empathy, we can empower teens to build healthy relationships. Let's work together to create a world where love is a positive force that nurtures and uplifts, ensuring every young person experiences the beauty of a relationship founded on love.




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