February is the shortest month of the year, yet it holds space for us to celebrate many things such as Black History month, Groundhog Day, and many lighthearted observances. However, let us not forget that February is also teen dating violence awareness month.
Teen dating violence can happen anywhere
Intimate partner violence can happen anytime and anywhere: on an ordinary day, a holiday, at home, in public places, at school, and virtually. It has been occurring even more so now than ever before due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Teen dating violence (a subset of domestic violence) is a public health crisis. If left unaddressed, the long-term impacts of adolescent relationship abuse can cause mental health challenges, substance/alcohol use, physical illnesses, academic difficulties, strained relationships, continued abusive relationships in adulthood, isolation, employment and financial instability, violent and/or impulsive behaviors, self-harm, and even suicide or death from intimate partner violence.
Teen dating violence is on the rise
According to data pulled from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, the rate of teen dating violence is staggering. Per those figures, nearly 1 in 11 females and approximately 1 in 15 male high school students report having experienced physical dating violence in the last year. On a local level, data from the 2009 survey found that 18.5% of high school students in Chicago surveyed were victims of TDV in the previous year. This figure is nearly twice the rate of students nationwide. It should also be noted that individuals who identify as LGBTQ and BIPOC are disproportionately affected by teen dating violence.
Teen dating violence is often overlooked
Even more concerning, another survey found that only 33% of teens who were in an abusive relationship never told anyone about the abuse and a majority of parents (58%) could not correctly identify all the warning signs of abuse.
Taking these figures into consideration, it can be concluded that raising awareness about domestic violence, increasing resources available to survivors, and educating teens about dating violence and prevention can help combat this health crisis.
Patterns and Types of Teen dating violence
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teen dating violence is defined as a type of intimate partner violence that occurs between two people in a close relationship and includes repeated patterns of four types of behaviors in order to exert power and control over another.
- Physical violence may consist of hitting, kicking, property destruction, or display and/or use of a weapon.
- Sexual violence often includes pressure and coercion to engage in sexual acts with partner or others, refusal to use protection, pressure to participate in ‘sexting’, or demanding explicit photos/videos.
- Psychological aggression can be verbal or non-verbal and can look like: harmful manner of communication, gaslighting, isolation, threatening the safety of the individual/their loved ones, name-calling, taunting, lying and use of deceit, intimidation, or withdrawing affection and use of guilt.
- The last type of behavior is stalking which is defined by the CDC as a pattern of unwanted attention and contact that causes concerns regarding the safety of self or loved ones. Stalking can take place both ‘in real life’ as well as virtually- think cyberstalking.
Warning signs of teen dating violence
While it is incredibly important to familiarize ourselves with what teen dating violence entails, it can still be difficult to spot certain behaviors that may be more subtle in nature or can happen behind closed doors, which is often the case with abuse. Therefore, if you suspect that someone you know may be experiencing teen dating violence, be on the lookout for the following warning signs:
- Intense jealousy or possessiveness from partner
- depression, moodiness, argumentative, easily overwhelmed
- checks-in often with partner
- unexplained marks on the body (bruises, scratches, burns)
- deferring to the partner’s every wish
- apologizing for their partner’s behavior
- changes in academic performance
- isolation from friends and family
- becoming visibly upset after phone calls or dates with partner
- afraid of making partner angry
- describes being “punished” by an angry partner (through silence, humiliation, or force)
While this list is not exhaustive, the aforementioned signs are some of the most common responses to teen dating violence. If you suspect or have confirmed that you or someone you know is experiencing teen dating violence, the question becomes, “what do I do now?”
Please remember that abuse is never okay. Reach out to a loved one or someone you trust (i.e parent, teacher, guidance counselor, therapist, or mentor) and seek guidance. There are many agencies and hotlines devoted to helping people through difficult and abusive situations. There is help available; you do not have to do this alone.
Resources for TDV Services:
● If you are in immediate danger, please call 911
● National Domestic Violence Hotline 800.799.SAFE (7233)
● Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline 877.863.6338
● Comprehensive List of Organizations in Chicagoland area providing TDV/DV Supportive Services:
www.loveisrespect.org/ or text LOVEIS to 22522
Author: Marialaina Bucci