Violence does not discriminate, and it’s those who are at their most vulnerable in our communities that end up at risk. Approximately 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner each year, and only 33% end up getting help. Teen dating violence is a pattern of any combination of physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual abuse used by one person to exert power and control over another in a relationship. While this type of violence is thought solely as physical abuse, the emotional and psychological abuse used to degrade and manipulate can be just as severe.
Teenage years are filled with emotion, hormones, and growth. Compared to adult relationships, teens have limited experience in relationships, negotiating conflict, and are more easily influenced by their peers. All of this, combined with cell-phone and social media use and transitions into high school or college, can make it difficult for someone to ask for help. A lot can be done to prevent teen dating violence, and it comes in the form of education. Parents need to learn how to recognize the warning signs of an abusive relationship and talk openly with their teens before this becomes an issue.
When someone finds themself under the stress of an abusive relationship, their reaction might change in unexpected ways. For a teenager, changes in their eating habits and clothing, excessive texting and phone calls, withdrawal from academic and personal interests, and isolation from friends and family are all warning signs of abuse. Other red flags include experiencing:
- Extreme jealousy or insecurity
- Constant belittling or put-downs
- Explosive temper
- False accusations
- Constant mood swings
- Control and pressuring behaviors
There are many ways victims can get the help they need. Here in Arizona, victims can get an order of protection restricting an abuser’s movements to prevent stalking, harassing, and communicating with the victim. Thanks to Kaity’s Law, the victim does not have to be married or living with the abuser to be able to get an order of protection against them. The Arizona Protective Order Initiative and Notification Tool (AZPOINT) also allows for victims to start the order of protection process online. Choosing to date someone does not mean you lose your right as an individual or justify abuse.
For more information or to speak with a teen or young adult advocate call or text 1-888-606-HOPE (4673) or visit Bloom365.org/resources