By Veselina Grassi
February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. Unfortunately, this issue is more widespread than many people realize, and it affects not only teens, but also their families, friends, and communities. In an effort to raise awareness about teen dating violence and to promote healthy and safe relationships, we will be posting information on these topics over the next few weeks. This week’s article focuses on the following: 1). key facts and statistics about teen dating violence, 2). the relationship spectrum, ranging from healthy to abusive, with unhealthy relationships somewhere in the middle, and 3). resources that might be helpful to those who are in an abusive relationship.
Teen dating violence is, unfortunately, quite common
Research indicates that dating violence is prevalent among teens, with 25% of adolescents reporting physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual abuse from a dating partner every year. According to the CDC, nearly 10% of students nationwide report experiencing physical violence (being hit, slapped, or physically hurt) by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the previous 12 months. It’s important to note that many dating violence incidents are not reported because teens are scared to tell their family and friends.
The implications of teen dating violence
Teen dating violence is associated with a multitude of negative consequences, some of which can be long-term. Research by the CDC shows that dating violence can negatively affect how teens perform at school, and it may also lead to drug and alcohol use, as well as depression. There is also evidence that young women who had previously experienced dating violence are at a higher risk to be physically and sexually assaulted at college.
The relationship spectrum: healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships
In order to prevent teen dating violence before it starts, it’s essential to promote healthy relationships and raise awareness about unhealthy and abusive behaviors. All relationships exist on a spectrum, ranging from healthy to abusive, with unhealthy relationships falling somewhere in between.
Healthy relationships are characterized by respect, trust, honesty, and equality. The partners are open and honest in their communication and know how to listen. Even if they’re having a difficult conversation, they still respect and care for each other, without resorting to angry or insulting language. They take each other’s needs and opinions into account when making decisions, and they compromise when necessary. While they like spending time together as a couple, they also enjoy personal time away from each other.
Unhealthy relationships occur when a partner is disrespectful, dishonest, and not communicating. There is a lack of trust, and an attempt to take control. If your partner is pressuring you into activities, and only wants to spend time together, these signs may be indicative of an unhealthy relationship. Unhealthy relationships may also be characterized by a financial imbalance, where one partner tries to control the finances.
Abusive relationships involve a partner who communicates in a way that is hurtful or threatening. Abuse also occurs when one partner is mistreating the other or accuses them of cheating when that’s not the case. Abusive partners try to control the other person by isolating them from their support network of family and friends, and they deny that their actions are abusive.
Take this quiz to find out if your relationship is healthy:
What are the warning signs of dating abuse?
Relationships exist on a spectrum, and it’s not always easy to tell when your partner’s behavior becomes unhealthy or even abusive. There are several warning signs that typically indicate an unhealthy or abusive relationship. Notice if your partner exhibits the following behaviors:
- Checking your phone, social media accounts, or email without permission
- Putting you down often, especially in front of other people
- Trying to keep you isolated from family and friends
- Acting extremely jealous or insecure
- Explosive outbursts, temper, or mood swings
- Physical harm
- Acting in a possessive or controlling manner
- Making you feel pressured or forcing you to have sex
What to do if you find yourself in an abusive relationship?
If you’re currently experiencing dating abuse or have been in an abusive relationship in the past, know that this wasn’t your fault! Abuse is a choice that the abusers make, and they are entirely responsible for their behavior. Contrary to what abusers want you to believe, you didn’t do anything to provoke them. It’s also important to remember that abusers are unlikely to change their behavior.
You should always prioritize your safety and well-being. If you are concerned about possible signs of abuse in your relationship, there is help available! You can check out the following resources for teens in abusive relationships:
How to establish and maintain healthy relationships?
To build healthy relationships it’s important that you know your worth. You should always remember that you are deserving of love from yourself and from those people who you choose to let in your life. Whether you’re thinking about starting a relationship with someone or you’re already with a dating partner, you should assess the health of your relationship according to the following criteria: respect, equality, safety, and trust. Those who respect you will appreciate your opinions and decisions and will be mindful of any boundaries you’ve set with them. To build a relationship based on equality, you and your partner should have the same amount of voice and power in the relationship. You should be able to make decisions together or at least agree on how decisions should be made. Your relationship is safe when you know that your partner won’t cause you any intentional harm - physical, psychological, emotional, or otherwise. Find a partner who’s looking out for you, for your needs, and for your overall well-being. Finally, healthy relationships are based on trust. A partner can be considered trustworthy once they demonstrate that they are honest, reliable, and generally good towards you. While respect, equality, safety, and trust aren’t the only important factors in a relationship, they set the foundation that is essential for a healthy relationship.
Remember that you deserve a safe, healthy, happy, and loving relationship!
- Foshee VA, Linder GF, Bauman KE, Langwick SA, Arriaga XB, Heath JL, McMahon PM, Bangdiwala S. The Safe Dates Project: theoretical basis, evaluation design, and selected baseline findings. Am J Prev Med. 1996 Sep-Oct;12(5 Suppl):39-47. PMID: 8909623.