One in three teens will experience abuse at some point in their dating relationships, in the form of physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, and digital patterns of controlling behavior. The impact of abusive behavior is lasting: victims and survivors of dating abuse in their teens and early 20s are at a significantly higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, and future abusive relationships.
The rate of dating violence far exceeds those of other forms of violence among teens, yet 3 out of 4 parents admit they have never talked to their kids about abuse. It’s a difficult topic to discuss, but healthier relationships between young people will improve their well being and ultimately build healthier and stronger families, schools, and communities. Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month offers some great opportunities to start having these conversations.
Understanding what constitutes a healthy relationship is an empowering key to abuse prevention because it provides concrete, positive goals such as communication, respect, and boundaries. One great way to start the conversation is to simply ask a question and listen attentively to the answer (for example, “How do you define trust?” “Do you feel comfortable saying ‘no’ to your boyfriend/girlfriend/friends?”).
It’s also important to offer a nonjudgmental, supportive environment for teens and young adults to talk about abuse. Whether they are experiencing dating abuse or an unhealthy relationship, have questions about what that means, or know someone who is being abused, many young people want to talk to someone but don’t know how to bring it up or fear being judged or lectured. You don’t need to have all the answers or get everything perfect to create a safe space. Simply saying “If you need to talk, I will listen” can make all the difference.
To learn more about what’s happening this month and to find resources about healthy relationships, dating abuse, and how to start the conversation, check out our Teen DV Month page.
Boise Mayor Bieter has proclaimed February 2014 as “Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month”. Know someone who needs info? Call our 24-hour free hotline 208.343.7025.
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