teen dating violence
Health + Wellness

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

Teen relationships are often passionate and exciting, with many teens believing that they have fallen in love. Most of these teen relationships end rather quickly, but the damage left on a victim of teen dating abuse can last a lifetime. February is the month that our country chooses to highlight teen dating abuse as a way of trying to help parents and teens notice the signs and how they can heal after being in an abusive teen dating relationship.

One of the ways that awareness is raised is to define teen dating violence. Teen dating violence is the physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence that goes on within a dating relationship. A teenager can also be abused by a former partner in this way. Many abusers use more than one type of abuse on their victim. Often, the abuse starts subtly enough, with verbal and physical abuse often being mistaken for playful teasing. Slowly the situation escalates as the abuser tries to gain more control over their victim. Many teens will not realize that they were in an abusive relationship and they are likely to repeat the pattern going into adulthood. They are also extremely likely to suffer emotional issues such as PTSD. In more severe cases, the victims may die at the hands of the abuser. If you or someone you know is part of an abusive teen relationship, report it to a responsible adult right away.

Parents should be aware of and watch for signs that your child may be in a violent relationship. Teens often do not recognize the signs themselves or feel helpless to do anything.  If you child starts spending more and more time with the partner and less and less time with other friends and family the partner maybe trying to isolate your child to gain more control.  At the beginning of the relationship your child often spoke about the partner, but has now clammed up.  Your child may be embarrassed, ashamed or fearful of their situation as things become more  controlling and abusive.  Are the Tweets, emails and calls from the partner constant and is your child compelled to answer immediately?  This constant checking up on what your child is doing or who they are with is a form of extreme control. This control may then increase to wanting your child to dress a certain way, act a certain way, wear make-up a certain way with threats of consequences if they don’t comply.  Is your child making excuses for their partner?  Defending their partner’s bad behavior or language is a big warning sign. It often shows the child is afraid of making the partner mad which results in “punishment” from the partner.  Do not be blind if your child is male.  Males can be in abusive relationships also.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship it is important to seek the help of a professional (teacher, counselor, law enforcement).  Confronting the abuser or the person being abused may escalate the violence.  Stay calm and keep the lines of communication open.  The goal is to get the abused person away from the abuser without creating a more dangerous situation.

Victims of teen dating violence are likely to experience things such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and can even become suicidal. Left untreated, all of these conditions, including PTSD can become worse and lead to more reckless behavior.  Counseling should be considered if anyone has been a victim of an abusive relationship. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been shown to be quite effective in treating those with depression and anxiety, both common results of being in an abusive relationship. This therapy helps to address emotions and thoughts, as well as get to the underlying reason of why you feel the way that you do.

While the abuse may be hard for to talk about at first, therapy can help you to recognize the patterns of an abusive relationship and how to cope with the emotional scars that have been left behind. You don’t have to be a victim anymore, you just have to take the first step.

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