Awareness: Help End Teen Dating Violence

Teenagers have many responsibilities while developing who they are as a person. During this tumultuous time of their lives, as they move from dependency on parents to being an independent adult, being aware of issues such as teen dating violence can help them build healthy relationships in the future. 

According to the Center for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance 2017 survey, within 12 months, 8 percent of high school students reported physical violence while 7 percent said they experienced sexual abuse from a partner. 

Defining Violence 

“Some misconceptions people may have about teen dating violence are that it is only abuse when it is physical which is not true,” said Briana Crawford, Army Community Service, Family Advocacy Program support specialist. “Teen dating violence can also include social media abuse, such as cyberbullying and stalking.” 

Domestic violence is physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual abuse committed by an intimate partner. Behaviors include humiliating, isolating, injuring, coercing and manipulating partners. 

The consequences to the victim of unhealthy relationships include suicidal thoughts, depression, unhealthy habits such as drinking or drugs, and having antisocial behaviors. Experiencing domestic violence as a teenager can increase the likelihood of being involved in future unhealthy relationships. 

Promoting Healthy Relationships 

Healthy partnerships are about “good communication, respect, support, security and equality,” Crawford said. 

On the other hand, “An unhealthy relationship is uncertainty, physical and emotional abuse, control, anxiousness, embarrassment and feeling of unpredictability,” she said. 

Other qualities of a healthy relationship including good communication and understanding, patience, trust and honesty, she said. 

Parents and other adults can lead by example by modeling the qualities of healthy relationships. 

“By seeing these modeled on a daily basis will allow for them to have healthy solid relationships in the future,” Crawford said. 

Open Communication 

Having “open, comfortable communication with your teen is key,” Crawford said, adding that teens often don’t want to talk to their parents about their relationships. Instead, they seek outside sources that might be harmful. 

“It is important for parents to be open with their teens and talk with them instead of talking at them,” she said. “It is crucial to establish dating guidelines, rules and also point out unhealthy signs such as jealousy, criticism, name-calling.” 

Where To Go 

Teens in abusive relationships should find a trusted adult for help, Crawford said. 

“Most teens will keep this a secret but do not realize that it will only do damage in the long run. They will normalize these behaviors that are unhealthy which will only carry on with them throughout their adulthood,” she said. “By putting an end to this behavior early on you are preventing future abuse, heartbreak, depression, lack of confidence, and can live a healthier life.” 

Fort Belvoir offers resources for families dealing with domestic violence. Resources include Army Community Service (ACS) and Military Family Life Counselors. For more information about counseling services, visit belvoir.armymwr. com/programs/acs. 

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, you can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. 

Sources: www.childwelfare. gov/pubpdfs/defdomvio.pdf and www.cdc.gov