How to Protect Teens from Dating Violence
Dating violence happens among teens rather frequently. However, it is often not reported because teens are afraid to tell adults about it.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 23% of females and 14% of males who have ever experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age. This indicates that many adults who experience violence in their intimate relationships began in adolescence or earlier. And according to the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 10% of high school students reported physical victimization and 10% reported sexual victimization from a dating partner in the 12 months. As you can see, there is plenty of dating violence that can exist among teens, without ever hearing about it on the news or among members of the community.
You might describe dating violence as any physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence within a dating relationship, including stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and might occur between a current or former dating partner. Sometimes, dating violence is referred to by different names, including:
- Relationship abuse
- Intimate partner violence
- Relationship violence
- Dating abuse
- Domestic abuse
- Domestic violence
As you can imagine, dating violence can lead to many serious effects. Because teens are still developing emotionally, physically, psychologically, and socially, negative experiences can interrupt their development. In fact, dating violence can even contribute to mental illness. Just as healthy relationships can help a teen succeed, unhealthy relationships can have consequences. Here are a few ways in which dating violence can affect teens:
- Teens may experience symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Teens may be vulnerable to other unhealthy behaviors, such as tobacco and drug use, and alcohol.
- Teens may begin to develop other types of antisocial behaviors, such as harming others.
- Teens may develop thoughts about suicide.
- Teens who experience dating violence in high school are more likely to experience dating violence in college as well.
If you want to help your teen avoid these experiences and develop in a healthy way, parents and caregivers can intervene as early as possible. In fact, starting from age 10 or earlier (depending upon a child’s temperament and maturity), parents can do the following to help protect their teen again dating violence:
- Teach them effective, non-violent communication
- Teach teens about how to resolve conflicts in a healthy way
- Be a model for teens and demonstrate positive interactions based upon respect and trust
- Model for teens healthy social behaviors
- Talk to your teen about having a healthy self-image.
- Teach your teen leadership skills, or have your teen work with a mentor and have them work on leadership skills together.
- Talk to your teen about healthy interpersonal skills, communication, and how to negotiate with others in a healthy way.
- Be empathetic with your teen and teach them what empathy is.
These are suggestions for helping a teen avoid dating violence and prevent against it in the future. However, if you feel your teen is in danger, contact the police and a mental health professional. Dating violence is serious and can lead to many dangerous consequences if not addresses as soon as possible.