February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
What is it? Teen dating violence is an act, or acts, that are abusive to one or both of the parties involved in a teen relationship. There are several forms of abuse that can occur: physical, emotional, sexual, behavioral, and economical.
Why does it matter? Teen dating violence is increasingly becoming a problem. It happens every day, and often goes unreported. It is something that needs to be stopped. Often times there are huge psychological costs associated with teen dating violence for the involved victims.
Who does it affect? The teens involved in the dating relationship are obviously directly affected by the teen violence. Indirectly, parents, counselors, friends, family, and even potential future children all feel the effects of such violence.
How can you recognize it? There are several indicators that a teen may be prone to or is currently experiencing relationship violence. First and foremost, irrational outbursts from a suspected abuser should be a warning sign for potential violence in a teen relationship. If a teen feels perpetually threatened, humiliated, criticized, powerless, dominated, manipulated, victimized, unworthy, or abused, the relationship may tend to be more unstable and more susceptible to violence. Sometimes, physical marks may be visible indicators of dating violence. If you notice the teen is skipping classes, has changes in mood or personality, is unusually indecisive, grades are falling, using drugs or alcohol, emotional outbursts or seems to be isolated, these can all be signs of abuse. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult for a victim to initiate getting help with dating violence. As such, it is sometimes difficult to detect teen dating violence. Nonetheless, identifying a potentially violent relationship in the early stages can help avoid any harm to the teen and the people that care about them.
Advice to Adults: If a teen comes to you and expresses that they may have been abused, first and foremost, show your support for them. Tell them that you’re concerned for their safety, ask them if they would like to talk about it, tell them that they are not alone and it’s not their fault. Understand that when it comes to an abused teenager or abused person in general that their self-esteem has been gradually worn down. They may fear retaliation for reporting the abuse. They feel alone. Morever, and confusing and frustrating to those who care about them–they may still care deeply for their abuser and continue to hope that the relationship will improve. For parents, you may need help to appropriately address the situation. School guidance counselors, victim support organizations, and mental health professionals are all potential resources.
Advice to Teens Experiencing Dating Violence: Get help. Talk to a favorite teacher, coach, guidance counselor, religious leader, parents, or any trusted adult to see if any solutions can be reached. Some situations can be handled simply with adult intervention or an adult helping the teen work through the situation. Others may require the assistance of mental health professionals or law enforcement. In certain circumstances a Harrassment Restraining Order or Order for Protection from a Judge may be needed to prevent the abuser from continuing to contact the teen victim. If you or someone you know would like to talk to a victim services specialist please call Someplace Safe in Morris, 320-589-3208 or the Crisis Line at 1-800-974-3359. For more information on teen dating violence and relationship violence in general, go to http://www.someplacesafe.info/.