Let's Talk About Teen Dating Violence

Let’s face it, teens are generally overlooked and under-informed. They’re taught plenty about algebra, chemistry, and the same historical events year in and year out. While all of this is important in its own way, there are plenty of things that we don’t learn until we’re thrown into it. Unfortunately, one of those things is what’s acceptable from a romantic partner. Young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience dating violence at a rate three times higher than the national average. With statistics like this, it's clear that this is a hidden issue. According to Loveisrespect.org, over half of college students have difficulty identifying abuse and even more don’t know how to help someone experiencing abuse. So, this brings up the question, what is abuse and what isn’t?

Warning Signs

Relationships are hard to navigate because no one is going to be the same as another. If you think your partner might be toeing the line of acceptable behavior, take a look at this guide of potentially dangerous behaviors.

  • Going through your personal messages without permission
  • Severe jealousy or insecurity
  • Short-fused temper
  • Encouraging isolation from family and friends
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Physical hurting you
  • Being possessive
  • Pressuring or forcing you into sexual activities

Types of Abuse

Dating abuse is defined as a pattern of behaviors someone uses to hold power and control over a partner. While physical abuse is what gets the most coverage, it’s not the only kind of abuse out there.  Physical abuse is any intentional or unwanted contact with you or something close to your body. Emotional abuse can be described as non-physical behaviors such as stalking, humiliation, threats, and insults. Sexual abuse is any action that pressures someone to do any sexual activity they don’t want to do. These are some of the most prevalent types of abuse in relationships as well as financial abuse, digital abuse, and stalking. When it comes to abuse, there’s no one group of people that is always the perpetrator, or the victim. It can happen to anyone and anyone can do it.

Relationship Red Flags

So how do you know if your relationship is healthy? Look at this acronym proposed by loveisrespect.org, R.E.S.T. R is for respect, respect is hearing your partner out about their thoughts and feelings not only in your relationship but also in general day-to-day life. E stands for equality, which is defined as “being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.” S is for safety, safety in relationships is not protection from the weather or something out of your control, but safety with and from your partner in your relationship. Don’t forget that goes both ways. T is trust, trust is a sense of belief between partners. These are the basic pillars of a healthy relationship, and you should visualize them as such. Big, strong, sturdy pillars. You’re only as strong as your base.

What To Do

Although it's upsetting, it's more likely than not that someone you know has or is currently experiencing dating abuse. So, what do you do if you or someone you know is going through this?

  • Acknowledge that their situation is difficult.
  • Be supportive and listen.
  • Be non-judgmental.
  • Continue to support them if they decide to end the relationship.
  • Encourage them to join activities with friends and family outside of their relationship
  • Help them develop a safety plan.
  • Encourage them to talk to professionals that can help them.
  • Do not try to “save” them, be there for support.

If you or someone you know is struggling with this, follow the links below for more resources.