Mind and Body: Teen dating violence

By Alice Bailey

Clark County Health Department

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and gives us an opportunity to remind the youth about the adverse effects of dating violence, which can linger years after the relationship is over.

For many teens, behaviors such as name-calling and teasing are a “normal” part of relationships; however, these behaviors can quickly develop into more severe forms of violence and abuse.

Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime.

Teen dating violence is 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.

Many people think of dating violence as limited to physical abuse, but is not the case, although dating violence includes physical violence it also includes many other behaviors such as:

Physical violence

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

Sexual violence

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

Stalking

Stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention and contact by a partner that causes fear or concern for one’s safety or the safety of someone close to the individual being stalked.

Psychological aggression

Psychological aggression is the use of verbal and nonverbal communication with the intent to harm another person mentally or emotionally 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 Behavioral 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.

Unhealthy, abusive or violent relationships can have severe consequences and long-term effects on a developing teen.

Thus it is essential to:

Teach safe, healthy relationship skills

As a parent, guardian, or authoritative figure, it is vital to help your teen learn to deal with their emotions without using violence.

Preventive methods may include learning nonviolent means to control their anger or developing more efficient problem-solving skills.

Demonstrating to your teen — through your words and actions — that violence is never an acceptable form of behavior is essential to your teen’s growth into responsible, level-headed young adults.

Talk about healthy, unhealthy behaviors

For example, express yourself in a non-violent way; be assertive, not aggressive.

Stand up for your ideas.

Begin every sentence with “I.” For example: “I feel this way…” or “I don’t like it when…”

Create a protective environment

Foster an environment that emphasizes communication and respect, by being a role model, and by handling problems in nonviolent ways.

Being human is an emotional experience filled with: happiness, sadness, anger, depression, anxiety, and a host of other feelings.

Communicating with your partner, managing uncomfortable emotions like anger and jealousy, and treating others with respect are a few ways to keep relationships healthy and nonviolent.

Teens, families, organizations and communities can prevent dating violence by working together to implement effective prevention strategies.

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 on all of our services, please call 859-744-4482 or visit our website at www.clarkhealthdept.org.