February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Published 11:44 am Tuesday, February 16, 2021

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 For many teens, behaviors such as name calling and teasing are a “normal” part of relationships. However, these behaviors can easily develop into more serious forms of violence and abuse. Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime.

Teen dating violence is defined as the physical, sexual, psychological or emotional aggression within a dating relationship, including stalking. It can occur in person or electronically such as repeated texting or posting sexual pictures of a partner online without consent. Teen dating violence can include the following behaviors:

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• Physical violence: when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or using another type of physical force.

• Sexual violence: forcing or attempting to force a partner to take part in a sex act, sexual touching, or a non-physical sexual event (e.g., sexting) when the partner does not or cannot consent.

•Stalking:  a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention and contact by a partner that causes fear or concern for one’s own safety or the safety of someone close to the victim.

•Psychological aggression: the use of verbal and non-verbal communication with the intent to harm another person mentally or emotionally and/or exert control over another person.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teen dating violence is common and affects millions of teens in the U.S. each year. Data from CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey share that nearly 1 in 9 female teens and approximately 1 in 13 male teens report having experienced physical dating violence in the last year. Over 1 in 7 female teens and nearly 1 in 19 male teens report having experienced sexual dating violence in the last year.

The statistics reveal:

•Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.

•One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.

• One in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

• Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence — almost triple the national average.

• Among female victims of intimate partner violence, 94% of those ages 16-19 and 70% of those ages 20-24 were victimized by a current or former boyfriend or girlfriend.

• Violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18. Dating violence crosses all sexual, racial, economic and social lines.

What are the warning signs? Being able to tell the difference between healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships can be more difficult than you would think. No two relationships are the same, so what’s unhealthy in one relationship may be abusive in another. Although there are many signs to pay attention to in a relationship, look for these common warning signs of dating abuse:

• Checking cell phones, emails or social networks without permission

• Extreme jealousy or insecurity

• Constant belittling or put-downs

• Explosive temper

• Creating isolation from family and friends

• Making false accusations

• Erratic mood swings

• Physically inflicting pain or hurt in any way

• Possessiveness

• Telling someone what to do

• Repeatedly pressuring someone to have sex

What are some red flags for friends and families to watch for?  While the following non-specific warning signs could indicate other concerning things such as depression or drug use, these should also raise a red flag about the possibility of an unhealthy relationship:

• No longer hanging out with his/her circle of friends

• Wearing the same clothing

• Distracted when spoken to

• Constantly checking cell phone, gets extremely upset when asked to turn phone off

• Withdrawn, quieter than usual

• Angry, irritable when asked how they are doing

• Makes excuses for their boyfriend/girlfriend

• Showering immediately after getting home

• Unexplained scratches or bruises

If you or someone you know is involved in a relationship with violence, please contact the crisis line at 1-800-544-2022 or call local emergency services.  More information is available at the website, greenhouse17.org.

Information taken from loveisrespect.org and www.acadv.org. Clark County Health Department provides programs for the entire family, including WIC, HANDS, family planning, well child care/immunizations, and home health care. For more information, call 744-4482, visit www.clarkhealthdept.org or follow www.facebook.com/pages/Clark-County-Health-Department.