As a society, most people are aware of issues with abusive relationships (both physical and mental), but what many people don’t realize is an increasing problem is teen dating violence. In fact, in 2013, among students who dated, 20.9% of female students and 10.4% of male students experienced some form of teen dating violence, according to the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. And while females are at a higher risk to face teen dating violence than males, some racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected.
This issue needs to be talked about. Both for the sake of teenagers who need to know the risk of dating violence to them and for the sake of anyone older than a teenager who needs to be on the lookout for warning signs and to be able to help. Abuse is a very real issue for adolescent teens in relationships, and many don’t even realize it.
Approximately 10 percent of adolescents in the U.S. reported being the victim of physical violence at the hands of a romantic partner, according to the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. That is a staggering number of young people. And while the rates for teens facing physical abuse in relationships are high, the rates for teens facing emotional and psychological abuse are even higher. Between twenty to thirty percent of teens reported being verbally or psychologically abused in their relationship, according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.
So why is this such a problem and why has it only become a prevalent issue being talked about recently?
Physical and sexual violence are more easily recognized issues with relationships, while emotional and psychological violence is less easily recognized, hence the increase in teens facing the latter type of dating violence. However, regardless of the type of dating violence an adolescent is facing, all teen dating violence has a profound impact on the lifelong health, opportunity, and well-being of an adolescent.
Unhealthy relationships can start as early as the adolescent years and last a lifetime. This is why we need to start the conversation about teen dating violence now because the good news is this violence is preventable if people understand the warning signs. By paying attention to the signs, we can all help young people grow up violence-free. The following are several ways outlined by the CDC in which we can help to stop teen dating violence before it starts:
1. Teach safe and healthy relationship skills
2. Engage influential adults and peers
3. Disrupt the developmental pathways toward partner violence
4. Create protective environments
5. Strengthen economic support for families
6. Support survivors to increase safety and lessen harms
Teen dating violence is an extremely prevalent issue that can affect adolescents for their entire adult lives, so it’s important to do what you can to help prevent it before it starts. And to make sure adolescents are educated on the real risks of teen dating violence. This is something that needs to be talked about, so keep the conversation going.