Violence isn’t just relegated to domestic married couples—unfortunately, it’s just as prevalent among teenagers. Teen dating violence is just as real and serious as domestic violence. According to the Alabama Coalition of Domestic Violence, one in three teenagers have experienced violence in their relationships.
Teens may be especially vulnerable to violence because of their inexperience with
dating. They may accept a partner’s abusive behavior as a normal part of a relationship when it should not be tolerated. Violence is about power and control. Some teenage men cling to the sexist belief that a man must “control” his woman and they attempt to do this through violence.
The average victims of teen dating violence are young women ages 16 to 24. Even though the majority of victims are women, men can still find themselves in abusive relationships. Dating violence isn’t necessarily physical. It’s best defined as a pattern of controlling behavior, whether it be emotional, sexual, or physical.
Emotional abuse consists of broken promises, extreme jealousy, constant insults and name-calling, and threats to a partner’s safety. Does your boyfriend or girlfriend guilt you for having your own interests? Do they try to control what you wear, what you like, and who you hang out with? Do they endlessly make you feel guilty about past decisions you’ve made? If so, you may be in an emotionally abuse relationship. Don’t take this lightly—this type of abuse is just as destructive to your self esteem as physical abuse.
If your partner punches, kicks, slaps, shakes, pushes, or grabs you, then you most likely are a victim of physical abuse. Any physical act performed on you, even a seemingly innocent hug, may be considered abuse if it’s unwanted.
Sexual abuse includes any unwanted sexual contact or non-physical advances. Date rape, another form of teen dating violence, occurs when a person you know forces you to have sexual intercourse.
There are many early warning signs that your partner may become abusive. If you notice any of the following behaviors in your date, consider them red flags: unpredictable mood swings, the tendency to blame others for his or her own misgivings, is verbally abusive, is cruel to animals, abuses drugs or alcohol, acts with intense and explosive anger, is threatening, and has sexist beliefs. If anyone scares you in any way, or you just don’t feel safe with them, trust your instincts and head for the hills.
If you’re in a potentially abusive relationship, call a teen violence hotline and speak to someone. It’s completely free and anonymous.
You can’t always prevent yourself from interacting with people who turn abusive but you can take precautions to protect yourself. Go on double-dates when you’re first dating someone. Always make sure your friends or family know where you’re at and who you’re with if you two go out alone. If your date acts controlling, assert yourself. Be clear and communicate your needs, desires, and—more importantly—your boundaries.
Here are some links on teen dating violence:
Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Love Is Not Abuse
Women’s Coalition of St. Croix: Teen Dating Violence Information
National Teen Dating Violence Prevention Initiative
Break the Cycle
National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center
Jennifer Ann’s Group
Here are some helplines:
Love Is Respect: National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline
Bradley-Angle House Crisis Line
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