You know a teen affected by dating violence. All of us do. February is not only the month where people across the world celebrate love through candy hearts, chocolates, and grand gestures, but it is also Teen Domestic Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM). The statistics are devastating and we need to take a stand. Dating violence may seem like a farfetched thought to many but it’s extremely relevant in the world around us. Chances are, you interact with many teenagers affected by it each day. One in three teens in the U.S. experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse by a romantic partner before turning 18 and nearly half of college-aged women report experiencing violent dating behaviors each year.
The problem is there isn’t a lot of conversation surrounding dating violence and many people in abusive relationships aren’t aware of the signs of abuse until it’s too late. It’s up to all of us to educate ourselves, know the signs and start the conversation. There are a variety of reasons someone in an abusive relationship doesn’t leave, but with the right support system, and friends/family members bringing red flags to their attention, someone can leave the toxic relationship in the past and break the cycle before it continues.
It’s very important to always be aware of yourself in order to see your relationship from an honest perspective. One common defense mechanism is rationalizing a partner’s toxic behaviors. For example, “my girlfriend made me feel really bad for hanging out with my friends and accused me of cheating, but it’s okay. I know it’s only because her ex cheated on her.” This is a perfect example of an unhealthy relationship trend, and the individual rationalizing it in order to take the blame for their girlfriend’s unhealthy behavior.
In media today, many toxic tendencies are idolized but this can lead to serious harm. Such tendencies include jealousy, possessiveness, control, and belittling comments made out to be jokes. Other forms of partner abuse include checking cell phones, emails, and social media without permission, having insecurity to the point that their partner must explain their own actions, explosive temper, isolation from family and friends, inflicting physical pain, and directly or indirectly pressuring someone to have sex or claiming that it is owed to them.
Abusers are skilled at manipulating partners to feel trapped through feelings of importance and need, through the actions listed above. It can be hard to spot manipulation because it can be expressed in subtle ways. You can know if you’re being manipulated if someone is trying to convince you to do things you are not comfortable doing through making you feel bad, blatantly ignoring you, guilt-tripping you, or trying to influence your feelings until they get their way.
Contrary to the conflicting feelings of loyalty and importance that often follow emotional manipulation, domestic violence is serious and can have long-lasting effects. Some relationship red flags might seem harmless, but the truth is, although in love you must make sacrifices, you should never sacrifice any piece of yourself or your own wellbeing. The first step in achieving a healthy relationship is knowing your own worth and never settling for less. View your partner as who they are, not who they could become. Serious consequences come from ignoring unhealthy traits.
According to a study conducted by Cornell University Department of Human Development, females who experienced teen dating violence were 1.5 times more likely to binge drink or smoke, and twice as likely to experience recurring suicidal thoughts in adulthood. Adult males who experienced dating violence as a teen reportedly displayed more anti-social behaviors, were 1.3 times more likely to use marijuana and two times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts. Aside from these detrimental statistics, both women and men who experienced unhealthy relationships as teens are likely to continue the cycle of abuse as either victims or perpetrators.
To prevent abuse cycles from continuing, it’s important to educate yourself and your friends about the importance of healthy relationships and what healthy relationships look like. Be aware of the signs of a toxic relationship and educate yourself on how to start that difficult conversation with a peer in need. For more information, please visit https://www.loveisrespect.org/teendvmonth/ on ways you can know the signs and start the conversation.
If you know of a teen or parent that could benefit from speaking to a caring, well-trained peer advocate, please connect them with the National Dating Abuse Helpline, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, at 1-866-331-9474 (TTY: 1-866-331-8453), by texting “loveis” to 77054, or through live chat at loveisrespect.org.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.