Time to Talk About Dating Violence
By: Sarah Stack, Intern, Response Inc.
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month which makes it an important time to understand the facts about dating violence. Nearly 1.5 million high school students experience physical violence from their significant other every year. Females ages 16-24 are more vulnerable to intimate partner violence than any other age group. Violent relationships in the teenage years can have serious effects by putting the victims at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and further violence (www.loveisrespect.org).
Even though there is no definite way to predict who will be an abuser or a victim, there are certain factors that can be indicators of someone’s behavior later in life. A few examples of risk factors for committing relationship violence are low self-esteem, heavy alcohol and drug use and low academic achievement (www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention). The severity of violence is often greater when the individual was abused as a child.
Some warning signs of an unhealthy relationship may include:
- A significant other who gets angry easily
- A significant other who pushes you further sexually then you are comfortable with
- A significant other who tries to control who you talk to and who you hang out with
Healthy relationships involve mutual trust and respect in the relationship as well as honesty and open communication. It is also important to have a separate identity from your significant other and to have interests and friends outside of that one person (http://kidshealth.org/teen/).
According to an article about teen dating violence put out by the Clothesline Project, 57 percent of teens know someone who has been physically, sexually, or verbally abusive in a dating relationship. This is why it is important for teens to not only know about dating violence, but to know that it is okay – and important – to speak out against the violence. 81 percent of parents stated that they did not know dating violence was an issue in schools and over half of the parents surveyed said that they had not spoken to their children about the issue. Time to Talk Day is February 4th, 2014; this is a nationally recognized day highlighting the importance of talking about healthy relationships and how to prevent dating violence. This would be a great day for parents and teens to discuss the issue and create understanding about dating violence and what it looks like (http://www.itstimetotalkday.org/).
There is hope. Youth and young adults who have supportive family and friends and live in a community that works to support domestic violence prevention efforts have less risk of being in an abusive relationship. Local domestic violence centers are holding several events in the month of February concerning dating violence:
- Response Inc. will sponsor events at the local middle and high schools in Shenandoah County to give out information and encourage students to sign a pledge against dating violence.
- Choices, of Page County, will be working with Page County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office and Luray High School FCCLA to put on a mock-trial in February during class time.
- On February 10th at 2pm, the Laurel Center is hosting a flash mob at the Brandt Student Center at Shenandoah University to rise together as a way to speak out against dating violence.
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