by Fernanda Barragan, Crisis Services Associate
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
It may be surprising that 1 out of every 3 adolescents in the U.S. has been a victim of abuse from a partner. Too many times we equate dating violence with physical abuse, when in fact there are many other ways that a person can harm someone.
By educating ourselves and being vigilant, we can fight dating violence together.
Types of Abuse
- Physical: Non accidental injury.
- Ex: Hitting, kicking slapping, punching, burning, pulling hair, chocking, throwing, and shoving.
- Actions including kicking or punching, walls, doors, and other objects, or destruction of property are also a part of physical abuse.
- Emotional: Actions or statements that exploit another’s vulnerability or insecurity.
- Ex: Name calling, spreading rumors, criticizing, confusing, disregarding, ignoring, neglecting, and attacking self-worth and self-esteem.
- Verbal: Any abusive language to denigrate, embarrass or threaten. Similar to emotional.
- Ex: Name calling, yelling, screaming, shaming, criticizing, threatening, and negative comparisons.
- Control: A way for someone to maintain dominance.
- Ex: Monitoring phone calls, controlling freedom (hair style, clothing or makeup), showing up unexpectedly, and not allowing someone to have space or alone time.
- Isolation: Separating someone from everyone else.
- Ex: Keeping someone from want to do, seeing who they want to see.
- Sexual: Any non-consensual sex act.
- Ex: Fondling, penetration, intercourse, exploitation, pornography, exhibitionism, and forced observation of sexual acts. Also referred to as sexual assault, or rape.
Sometimes it is important for people to have alone time, and it is ok to want alone time. It is also ok to want to spend time with loved ones, and no one should make you feel like it is wrong or stop you from doing that. It is not ok for a person to make someone else feel bad about themselves, in healthy relationships people should love and bring each other up, not put each other down.
No one has the right to touch you if you do not want to be touched. You are not obligated to be sexual with anyone even if you are dating. You have the right to say “no” at ANY TIME.
Parents and Friends
It is important to have open conversations with your children and/or friends about healthy relationships and the things to watch out for in unhealthy ones.
Healthy relationships, not just romantic ones, include these core values: Communication, Respect, Trust, Equality, and Personal Space. You can learn more about healthy vs. unhealthy relationships right here on our website.
If you’re worried about someone, ask questions. Assure them that they can talk to you if they need help establishing what behaviors make up a healthy relationship.
Finally, pay attention to behaviors.
Things to look for.
- Partner is possessive or extremely jealous.
- Unexplained marks or bruises.
- Excessive phone calls, emails, and texts.
- Anxiety or depression.
- Withdrawal from interests and extracurricular activities.
- Declining grades.
- Doesn’t spend time with loved ones.
- Dresses differently.
How YOU can Help:
There are a variety of ways to help your loved ones. Ask, listen, and support them through this hard time. It is very important that they know that what is happening to them is NOT their fault.
- Trust that they are telling you the truth, abuse is a hard thing to talk about and it takes a lot of courage to say that someone they love is hurting them physically or emotionally.
- Show concern. It is ok to tell them that you are worried about them and want them to be safe.
- Talk about the behaviors that are happening, rather than putting their partner down.
- It is important to remember that the partner may still be someone they love, and those feelings should be respected.
- Teenagers sometimes have a false picture of what makes up a relationship. Explain that abuse is not love.
- Ultimately whatever decision is made, it must come from them.
- The victim must decide what actions they want to take, but share your thoughts on how you feel they should be treated and respected.
- Educate yourself on teen dating violence. Learn what resources are available in your community.
- If you are scared for the immediate safety of a loved one, call 911.
Reaching out is hard, especially when the person who is hurting you is someone you love. Remember that in healthy relationships there is respect, boundaries, and support. If you are unsure if you are in an unhealthy relationship, you can read up more on how to proceed on our website. And you can visit loveisrespect.org for more information.