Written by: Candice Henderson, M.Ed., LPCC
It is common knowledge that the teenage years can be a difficult time.These formative years are spent developing a sense of identity, independence, and belonging as children move towards becoming young adults. One of the major changes in adolescence is the increased desire for romantic relationships. While challenging, dating is a necessary experience as it teaches teenagers how to have healthy, fulfilling relationships. However, it can also set the stage for a lifetime of unhealthy ones.
According to the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, over 10% of high school students surveyed reported they had been victims of physical or sexual violence in the last year. Today’s youth have ongoing exposure to violence and oversexualized ideas about what relationships are through websites, social media, television, music, video games, movies, and much more. Because of this it is imperative that other influences such as parents, teachers, counselors, and other caregivers have open dialogue with teenagers about relationships and help guide them to having healthy ones.
The first step in preventing dating violence in teenagers is education on what it is. Dating violence occurs between two people who are in a close relationship. Teenagers and adults often overlook possible red flag behaviors as ‘normal’ teenage behaviors. While they could be, they could also develop into more serious and abusive behaviors. The four main types of dating violence are described below.
- Physical – inflicting physical harm (hitting, pushing, pinching, pulling hair, kicking, etc)
- Emotional and verbal – angry outbursts, demands, manipulation, threats, attempts to control the other person, insults, humiliation
- Sexual – unwanted sexual behaviors especially through threats or coercion, threatening to or spreading rumors of a sexual nature, soliciting/sharing pictures of a sexual nature
- Stalking – harassing or threatening behaviors that cause fear, showing up places uninvited, monitoring where someone is and/or what they are doing
Technology has greatly increased the ability for these behaviors to occur. Many apps provide the ability to ‘check-in’ to locations or ‘map’ where the user is. There are many websites dedicated to getting revenge on someone by posting rumors, personal information, photos, and screenshots of text message, This is a very real threat as the internet allows for a mass amount of people to have access to these things.
Signs that a teen is experiencing dating violence can include depression, anxiety, alcohol/drug use, loss of interest in social or other activities, and suicidal thoughts. Victims of abuse are often reluctant to talk to someone about their experiences out of fear of retaliation, embarrassment, or undeserved guilt. Those who experience dating violence as a teen are also more likely to become a victim later on in life. The best way to help prevent or address issues with dating violence in teens is to have a conversation about it, ask questions about their relationship, and seek professional help if you need it.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2013, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss6304.pdf [Accessed 8 Jan. 2018]