February: Teen Dating Violence Prevention Month and what you can do to protect your teen

  • Published
  • By Susan Cartwright
  • and Edwards Family Advocacy
As Teen Dating Violence Prevention Month concludes, it is important that we understand a few startling statistics. According to loveisrespect.org, a website created by Break the Cycle and the National Dating Abuse Helpline partnership:
  • 33% of female teens in dating relationships have feared for their safety
  • 25% of female teens report having been pressured to go further sexually than they wanted
  • 20% of female teens in a relationship say they have been hit or beaten by a boyfriend
  • 40% of teen girls say they know someone their own age that has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend
  • 77% of female and 67% of male high school students endorse some form of sexual coercion, including unwanted kissing, hugging, genital contact, and sexual intercourse.
  • One in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriendĀ·
And most alarming of all is that 66% of teens tell NO ONE!

Dating Violence can occur in many forms. It can be constant name calling, put downs, pressure to use alcohol or drugs, or demands to be constantly available. Pressure to have sexual contact and even rape is not unusual. Scratches, bruises, and other marks are signs of physical abuse. A favorite tactic is isolating the teen from friends, family, and activities that don't include the abuser. "Digital" abuse includes constant texting or "sexting", instant messaging, use of social media to intimidate and stalking through cell phones.

Indicators that a teen may be involved in an abusive relationship include unexplained physical injuries, changes in dress to cover injuries, or making excuses for their partner. Physical indicators may be changes in their clothing style, how they wear their hair, or talk in an attempt to make their partner happy. Falling grades, use of drugs or alcohol, changes in activities or friends can all be a cause for concern. Parents should also be looking for changes in mood or personality, the onset of depression or sadness, or constant worrying about what their partner will think or how they will react.

As a parent, what can you do? First, educate yourself about dating violence. Talk, talk, talk with your teen or preteen. Let your teen know you are aware of how prevalent dating violence is, and how serious it is. Make sure your teen knows they can call you for a ride home without recrimination if they find themselves in an uncomfortable position--even if alcohol or drugs are involved. Make sure you know where your teen is going, and with whom, and know the cell phone numbers of their friends.

Most importantly, listen. If your teen is telling you something is going wrong in their life, make the time to carefully listen. Resist the urge to offer advice or put down their boyfriend or girlfriend. Doing so will likely cause your teen to aggressively defend them. Also, seek help from professionals, if necessary.

If you are interested in more information about helping your tween or teen make healthy decisions, also consider taking an "Active Parenting of Teens" class through the Family Advocacy Program. This class focuses on effective communication with your teen, developing courage and self-esteem, and helping your teen learn to make good dating choices. The three primary concerns of all parents of pre-teens and teens are drugs, sexuality, and violence. This class addresses these concerns. This class began in February and will be held weekly on Tuesday evenings from 4:30p.m. - 6:30 p.m. For more information on dates, times, and location for this class or other events or classes, please call Family Advocacy at (661) 277-5292.