Teen dating violence is a pattern of abuse or threat of abuse directed against teenaged dating partners. It can take several forms—physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and psychological. In today’s digital age, cyberstalking and other forms of digital abuse represent the latest wave of teen dating violence. Teen dating violence is not limited to any one particular group or culture and can affect boys and girls of any race, religion, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status.
How Prevalent is Teen Dating Violence?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that each year approximately 1.5 million students at the high school level experience physical abuse from a dating partner. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey reported that, during one year, one in ten high school students were hurt physically by a romantic partner and 10 percent were victimized sexually. The most commonly affected group are girls aged between sixteen and twenty-four, but boys are not immune. The CDC estimates that 7 percent of girls and 4 percent of boys experience some form of dating abuse before the age of eighteen. Click here to read a detailed CDC report on teen dating violence.
How Do You Know if Your Teen is a Victim?
Sadly, many teens who are the victims of teen dating abuse suffer in silence. They are afraid, ashamed, or guilt-stricken. And, unfortunately, research conducted by Teen Research Unlimited found that many parents are unable to detect the signs of dating abuse. Although 82 percent of parents thought they were confident in their ability to recognize signs of abuse, only 42 percent knew how to identify the signs accurately. Here are some warning signs that parents should watch out for:
- Bumps and bruises: If your teen is giving you reasons for injuries that don’t seem to add up, be suspicious. You need to keep probing to see if your teen is covering up dating abuse and trying to protect the abuser.
- Changes in personality: Is your extroverted teen staying at home more and not socializing with friends? If this is the case, you have good reason to be concerned – the effects of isolation on an adolescent can be detrimental.
- Drug use: Some instances of abuse follow drug use by the victim’s partner and often the victim has also been persuaded to take the drug. In other cases, a victim may turn to drugs and use them as a coping mechanism.
- Lower grades: A decline in school performance may be an indication that something is wrong. According to the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), a drop in grades often goes hand in hand with physical or sexual violence. Dating violence may also result in the student skipping school or even dropping out of school altogether.
- Change in self-care: Have you noticed that your teen’s hygiene, sleep, and eating habits have changed? Poor self-care is another sign that something significant is going on in your teen’s life.
- Secrecy: Have you caught your teen in lies about where they have been? If you feel your teen is hiding something from you, you’re probably right.
Talk to Your Teen
Many young people start dating in their teens, so it’s important to educate them about the possibility of ending up in an abusive relationship. Parents are less likely to talk to their teen about dating violence than other teen-related issues, such as academic performance, family finances, drugs, and sex. Parents, if you don’t speak to your teens about dating violence, who will?
Get Some Help
Teen dating violence can have a devastating impact on a teen’s emotional and social development. Teen dating violence may lead to depression, suicidal thoughts, or substance abuse. Whether the abuse is physical or emotional, it’s certain that the scars can last a lifetime. So, if you think your teen may be involved in an abusive dating relationship and you don’t know how to deal with it, seek the help of a professional counselor. Here at Doorways Arizona, we understand that, although teen dating violence shares some similarities with adult domestic violence, because of the young age involved, teen dating violence presents unique challenges. Arizona ranks in the second worst level for the number of students who experience dating violence, so make an appointment with Doorways today.