Teen Dating Violence
Few parents realize the alarming statistics around dating violence and abuse among teenagers. One in Three high school students will experience physical or sexual violence perpetrated by someone they are dating. Toxic relationships are dangerous with or without physical or sexual violence. Teens often struggle with recognizing the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship and even when they realize something is wrong, they struggle with knowing how to safely exit the relationship.
As a parent your life experience may help you recognize potential problems about your teens relationship before your teen is aware that anything is wrong. Warning signs your teen is in a toxic relationship include: your teen’s partner is overly jealous or possessive, your teen’s partner shows lack of respect for your child’s goals or ambitions, your teen feels the need to continually check in with their partner, your teen may start dressing differently, you may notice a change in their behaviours indicating signs of anxiety and depression, spot random bruises or injuries, or observe your teen pulling away and isolating themselves from family and friends.
Teens who are victims of violence and stalking have an increased risk of developing significant mental health issues. In a study of 1,236 randomly selected teens, it was reported those who were victims of stalking were more likely to have suffered physical dating violence and had a higher incidence of post-traumatic stress, mood disorder, and feelings of hopelessness. It also reported an increase in alcohol use such as binge drinking. Experiencing teen dating violence can lead to long-term consequences that carry over into adulthood and continue the cycle of abuse and violence in our community. It can also have other catastrophic effects; teenagers who are exposed to TDV have a higher rate of suicide than their peers who do not experience it.
Teen dating violence can turn into adult domestic abuse within a few short years. In teens, stalking and harassing behaviors often manifest as patterns of coercive control over cell phones and other digital platforms. To adults, this may not initially look serious, but it’s genesis is the same as adult patterns of domestic abuse—power over another. If teens are not able to get help via early intervention or prevention, the abuse can become normalized and patterns are likely to continue into adulthood.
Teen dating violence is a growing and complex problem and like all complex issues, it requires a multi-prong approach. At WRC we believe all people deserve to live a life free from the crimes of domestic violence and through education and prevention of the next generation we can help teens recognize early warning signs of an abusive relationship, learn better coping skills, provide resources about who they can go to for help, and demonstrate what healthy relationships look like to set a positive template for them and their future.
The National Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474
Visit loveisrespect.org for more information