Tuesday, February 14, 2017

They Said They Can’t Live Without Me: Identifying Signs of Teen Dating Violence

“My boyfriend texts me every hour to see where I am. He says he’s just checking to make sure I’m safe.”

“My girlfriend says it’s disrespectful when other girls look at me, so she is always telling me how to dress and who to talk to.”

     Have you heard statements such as these from youth in your life? Yes, me too. It is far too common. How should we respond to them and when should we be concerned? The key is being “in the know” about the pressures and messages that young people are receiving about healthy and unhealthy relationships. Social media and pop culture often blur the lines between love and controlling behaviors, and if we’re not careful, youth will soak up every damaged portrayal of what being in a loving relationship looks like.  One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.[1] So, should we be concerned? The answer is yes.

      Abuse is a pattern of behavior used to gain and maintain power and control, and it can come in many forms. This includes: pushing, hitting, name calling, belittling, isolating from family and friends, using online platforms to intimidate or harass, controlling where they go or who they talk to, constant calling or texting, making threats to harm themselves or others, stalking behavior, and/or unwanted kissing or touching. As a community, we must not shy away from the conversation but step up our efforts in supporting youth who are experiencing abuse in a relationship currently. Here are some things we can do to help if we think a young person might be an abusive relationship:
  • Don’t be afraid to let her or him know that you are concerned for their safety.
  • Be supportive and listen patiently. It may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse.
  • Be non-judgmental and respect their decision regarding the relationship, even if you don’t  agree.
  • Encourage her or him to talk to people who can provide help and guidance.
  • Let them know it is not their fault and that nobody deserves to be abused.
     As adults, we need to take leadership and guidance from youth themselves to understand the challenges they face when it comes to navigating relationships. When we create safe, open and supportive spaces for youth to share the realities of their experiences, we set the stage for a community that honors young people, promotes resiliency, and provides supportive resources to help them grow in positive ways.

-Erin Callinan, EVAWI Associate Board Member
 Director of Community Engagement, Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence

For additional resources: www.loveisrespect.org, Teen Dating Violence Hotline: 1-866-331-9474

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Physical Dating Violence Among High School Students—United States, 2003,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 19, 2006, Vol. 55, No. 19.

1 comment:

  1. Erin, great post. As we listen, we will hear things that these abusers do that will sound unbelievable. The Start by Believing message can be helpful in these situations as well. Lundy Bancroft's book, "Why does he do that," is very telling about how calculated and specific some of these abusers are and how well planned their tactics of control can be.


Thank you for taking the time to comment on this post.