Break the Cycle: Preventing Teen Dating Violence
As you might remember, February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. While you might be thinking to yourself, sure… but it’s no longer February, we’re extending this Leap Day to a Leap Week, which means that we’re right on the mark (and feel totally justified given that the temperatures here are in the single digits and there are several inches of snow on the ground). Additionally, preventing teen dating violence is incredibly important, so we’re giving it a little extra attention.
Unfortunately, dating violence is altogether too common. By one estimate, one-third of teens in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse in a relationship before they become adults. While generally young women are more likely to experience dating violence than young men (13 percent of young women versus 7 percent of young men in the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey from 2013), a recent study showed that in some populations this difference might not be present. Researchers looked at a population of high-risk 11 to 8-year-old youth that were referred to the study because of a history of exposure to violence and examined their experiences in both perpetration of and victimization from teen dating violence. In this group, boys were more likely than girls to report being victims of sexual and physical victimization at younger ages (11 years old) and, by many measures, young men and women were equally as likely to be victims of teen dating violence at age 17.
All in all, it’s important to remember that dating violence can occur in all types of relationships (including same and opposite sex relationships) and to people of any gender.
Ok, we know it’s out there. How can teen dating violence be prevented?
One way to protect against teen dating violence is to make sure that all teens know how to recognize and create healthy relationships.
Healthy relationships are the opposite of abusive relationships, in that they are based on equality and respect instead of power and control. The following tips adapted from loveisrespect.org, can help develop healthy relationships:
- Speak Up. Open communication (being able to talk about anything – including what’s bothering us) is the foundation of a healthy relationship.
- Respect Your Partner. Each person in a relationship should feel valued and respected. This means that their views and opinions have value and deserve to be respected as well, event if the other person disagrees with their partner’s positions.
- Compromise. Every couple has disagreements. Turn to compromise as a way to grow from your disagreements rather than letting them tear your relationship apart… And remember that compromise involves both people, not just one person that gives in to another each time.
- Be Supportive. Unlike what we often see on TV, partners support each other and build each other up in a healthy relationship. It’s also important to let your partner know when you need support. Remember that open communication thing?
- Respect Each Other’s Privacy. Who hasn’t seen a friend start a relationship and become overwhelmed by their partner’s need to always be together and know everything that’s going on? In a healthy relationship, it’s okay to have some space: your partner should respect that there are things that you’ll want to do together and things that you might want to do outside of the relationship as well.
Want to learn more?
- Aimed at teens, www.loveisrespect.org has a great collection of resources for promoting healthy dating relationships including fantastic quizzes to help you to identify whether you’re in healthy relationship and whether you yourself are a good partner. The website also has a peer advocate hotline available 24/7/365 to offer education, support and advocacy to teens and young adults via text, chat, or phone.
- For parents, the American Academy of Pediatrics has some great tips on dating violence at www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/dating-sex/Pages/Dating-Violence-Tips-for-Parents.aspx.