2012-02-16 / Opinion

Stop teen dating violence

By Annette Schilling

Statistics show that one in three teenage girls have experienced violence in a dating relationship. One in five teens in a serious relationship reported they were hit, slapped or pushed by their partner. Females between the ages of 16 and 24 are three times more vulnerable to intimate partner violence and 45 percent of the teen girls know someone who has been forced or pressured into having sexual activity. Because of these startling statistics and because the key to preventing dating violence is education and early detection, February has been designated as “Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month”.

These violent relationships can have serious consequences for the victims. They are at a higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, suicide and adult re-victimization. Teenagers will often hide the violence because they are inexperienced with dating relationships, are pressured by peers to act violent, want their independence from their parents or have “romantic” view of what love is. How teenagers look at themselves influences teen dating violence. Young men believe they have the right to control their female partner and they “possess” her. They believe masculinity is physical aggressiveness and they should demand intimacy. Young women believe that they are responsible for fixing the problems in the relationship and abuse is normal because their friends are also abused. They believe their boyfriend’s jealousy, possessiveness, controlling behavior and even physical abuse is romantic.

Teenagers will be more apt to choose healthy relationships if they know the early warning signs of an abusive relationship, they understand that they have choices and believe they are valuable people who deserve to be treated with respect. Some signs to look for are extreme jealousy, controlling behavior, mood swings, explosive temper, isolating you from family and friends and constant put downs. As a parent common clues that your teenager may be involved in a violent dating relationship are signs of physical injury, failing grades, changes in mood or personality, emotional outburst and pregnancy.

If you are a teenager in an abusive relationship, you need to remember that no one deserves to be abused or threatened. You cannot change your batterer and the violence will get worse with time. You need to take care of yourself. There is help for you. Talk to a trusted adult or contact Hands of Hope Resource Center and together we can talk about a plan to keep you safe. Our services are free and confi- dential. Call 320-732-2319 or 1-800-682-4547.

Annette Schilling is with the Hands of Hope Resource Center, Long Prairie, Minn.

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