One in three teens has experienced dating violence. This is a staggering number, especially considering that it is often during those formative years that young people learn the habits and relationship roles that they carry with them later in life. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice, women ages 16 to 24 suffer the most from dating or domestic violence, with about 20 in 1,000 women being abused by their partners. Teen girls bear the brunt of teen dating violence – most teen dating violence victims are female, and these young women are at greater risk for serious injury than teen boys.
Teen dating violence is a serious problem that can affect a young person’s current life, her education and her future, and even lead to injury or death. For that reason, it is very important for parents to recognize the signs of teen dating violence and keep lines of communication open with their children when it comes to relationships and dating. Share with your children the warning signs that a relationship may turn abusive.
These signs include:
1.) Extreme jealousy and/or controlling behavior – Teens, unfamiliar with healthy relationships, may feel that jealousy or controlling behavior is “romantic” or a sign that their partner “truly loves them.” Further, young men (and even some young women) may feel that they “possess” their partners and jealousy and controlling behavior are signs of love. Controlling behavior can include dictating a partners dress and mannerisms, habits, and social life.
2.) Quick involvement – Watch for relationships that seem to crop up out of nowhere. Abusers often pinpoint victims who will allow for quick, intense involvement to the exclusion of other friends, parents, and a healthy social life.
3.) One partner has unpredictable mood swings – Explain to your child that a partner who suddenly reverts from normal to angry or sad is displaying abnormal behavior. Young women often feel that it is their responsibility to solve problems within the relationship, and may hold themselves to blame for their partner’s moods.
4.) Alcohol or drug abuse – Substance abuse is often the sign of a larger behavioral problem. Teens may be trying to medicate themselves with drugs or alcohol, or substance abuse may lead to abusive behavior.
5.) Explosive anger – Inability to control temper can lead to violence and other abusive behavior.
6.) Isolates partner from friends and family – Abusers often attempt to isolate their partners from friends and family who can offer them help or assurances that the abuser’s behavior is inappropriate.
7.) Uses force during an argument – A partner who uses bullying, physical intimidation or other forceful tactics during an argument may escalate to using physical violence.
8.) Believes in rigid sex roles – Young man who potentially abuse may believe that masculinity means aggressiveness, and femininity means submissiveness. They may also feel that they will lose “face” or “respect” if they show attentiveness or caring to their partners. They may also feel that they have the right, as a man, to demand sex.
9.) Blames others for problems or feelings – An inability to accept responsibility for failings and shortcomings can be a sign of the inability to deal with a relationship in a mature manner.
10.) Threatens violence – Some abusers may come out and broadcast their intentions. Warn your teens that if a partner threatens violence, even in a joking manner, that they should report the threat immediately.
The teenager years are a time of mystery and discovery – for teens, because they are experiencing many lifetime milestones for the first time, and for parents because teens begin to pull away and demand privacy. Keep lines of communication open with your teen so that she can make decisions that will keep her healthy and safe.