February 19, 2021
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, but education and awareness about teen dating violence is crucial every month. You may not expect to find yourself or your loved ones in an abusive relationship, but, unfortunately, it can happen to anyone.
What Does It Look Like?
Teen dating violence can show up in various ways, both in real life and virtually. There are four types of intimate partner violence, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
1. Physical violence: when a person inflicts physical damage onto their partner, such as pinching, slapping or punching. “Nearly one in 11 females and about one in 15 male high school students report having experienced physical dating violence in the last year,” according to the 2018 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
2. Sexual violence: when someone forces their partner to engage in sexual activity or attempts to touch them sexually without consent or permission. Things like sexting can also fall into this category if both people are not consenting. “About one in nine females and one in 36 male high school students report having experienced sexual dating violence in the last year,” also according to the 2018 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
3. Psychological aggression: verbal, emotional and mental abuse intended to hurt someone’s mental health and make them feel weak. Dishonesty in a relationship or blackmailing are forms of psychological aggression.
4. Stalking: exhibiting a continuous pattern of unwanted attention that may make the person being targeted feel as if their safety is in jeopardy.
What You Can Do
So, what can you do if you or someone you care about is in an abusive relationship?
1. Leave the relationship. This may be difficult to do at first, but if you feel like you are in an abusive relationship, it’s time to get out of it, for your own well-being. Talk to friends and family or seek professional help from a therapist. Your safety is important and you are not alone.
2. Know that you are not responsible. We can’t control other people’s actions. Your only responsibility is to put yourself in a safer space, physically and psychologically.
3. Seek help. You might feel heartbroken after you leave the relationship, even if it was abusive. But, you should know that time helps. If you need help to get out of a relationship or you do not feel safe, reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service. You can also go to TheHotline.org, LoveIsRespect.org and SafeVoices.org for more resources.
Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month is focused on building awareness of the signs of an abusive relationship and how to get out. The more information and awareness out there, the better the chance that teens will both feel less isolated if they are in an abusive relationship and reach out for help.