February was declared Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month by Congress in 2010. The purpose of the month is to bring awareness towards the issue of teen dating violence and to advocate and educate so abuse can be stopped before it starts.
Teen dating violence is defined as a pattern of behavior that includes physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse carried out by one person in an intimate relationship to exert power and control over another.
Teen dating violence is not dependent on race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or class. It can happen to anyone.
The Biden administration released a statement on February 3 hoping to raise the national awareness about teen dating violence and promote safe and healthy relationships.
The STOP Club here at Central Kitsap High School recently released a video that teaches students to differentiate the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships, which is an essential skill in preventing teen dating violence.
One might think that teen dating violence doesn’t affect them, but it unfortunately affects more people than one would think.
Nationwide, ages 12-19 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assualt among every age group and ⅓ of teens in the United States will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from someone they’re in a relationship with before the time they turn 18.
Even here in Washington State, more than ⅙ 10th graders have been made to engage in unwanted in sexual activity.
These staggering statistics may seem set in stone, but there are many ways in which teen dating violence can be prevented.
By knowing the warning signs of abuse, one can identify a red flag that may indicate abuse is occurring. These include:
Extreme jealousy towards friends and family
Preventing time spent with friends, family members, or peers
Insulting, demeaning, or shaming demeanor
Preventing individual decisions
Pressure to perform sexual acts without consent
Pressure to use drugs or alcohol
Intimidation or threats
Destroying of personal belongings
These are all warning signs that abuse may be occurring, which can be extremely emotionally, physically, and mentally damaging to the victim.
Another factor that plays into abuse is cultural context. Abuse looks different to different people. Those who are a part of deaf, Native American, LGBTQ+, disabled, or immigrant communities have specific challenges that may affect them while they try to escape from an abuser.
If you or someone you know is a victim of teen dating violence, please don’t hesitate to contact the numbers below and get assistance.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 866-331-9474
NW Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian & Gay Survivors of Abuse Crisis Line: 1-888-560-6027