Tips for Parents
Rise in Teen Dating Violence & the Economy — Are They Related?
One in three teens report threats of violence or sexual or physical abuse in their dating relationships, according to a recent survey conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited for the Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) and Liz Claiborne Inc. The survey also found that there appears to be a link between the current condition of the economy and increased levels of teen dating abuse.
Specifically, the survey found that:
- Nearly half of all teens whose families have experienced economic hardships in the past year have witnessed their parents abusing each other. These teens also reported a higher incidence of abuse in their own dating relationships too.
- Some parents aren't grasping the serious levels of teen dating violence occurring. Many aren't talking about dating violence and most abused teens are not telling their parents if they've been abused either.
- Nearly one in three teens report actual sexual abuse, physical abuse or threats of physical abuse.
- Nearly one in four have been victimized through technology (texting, cell phones, Internet, etc.).
- Nearly one in two teens in relationships report being controlled, threatened and pressured to do things they do not want to do.
What You Can Do
Sometimes, in their inexperience, teen daters find behaviors flattering in their partners, instead of recognizing the signs that they could be in real danger. Not allowing someone to spend time with friends, calling someone constantly to check in, and offering "advice" about hair or clothes are all behaviors that could be considered "cute," but in reality might mean much more. Verbally and emotionally abusive behaviors have become commonplace among some of today's youth, to the point that it is difficult to recognize when these behaviors have become problematic.
If you are concerned about the context of a student's relationship, your thoughts may be warranted. Teen dating violence can take many forms and can take place during casual and serious relationships. And while young women report the problem more often, young men are not immune from teen dating violence.
Bronwyn Blake, founder and senior attorney for the Teen Justice Initiative, suggests that if you believe your student is experiencing violence in a dating relationship, you should be supportive. "Let the victim know you care about them, you don't like how they are being treated, and you are ready to help them if they are ready to get help," she says. According to Blake, this approach should also be used if your student is being verbally or emotionally abused, because very often this is an indication that a relationship may become violent.
There are a number of online resources that can provide guidance to teens experiencing abuse and their friends and family too:
You can help combat the problem of teen dating violence by helping your student understand what a positive relationship looks like – and what it doesn't. This reality check is so important, because so much of what today's teens view on TV and the Web sends a mixed message.
- www.loveisnotabuse.org, which includes information about the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline and MADE, a growing coalition of concerned parents, teens, education advocates and community leaders urging schools across the country to teach about teen dating violence and abuse.
- www.GiveRespect.org, which provides information for parents on how to talk to their children, define and promote healthy relationships, and intervene if abuse begins.
- www.EndAbuse.org, which includes information on how to create a teen safety plan.
Sources: www.endabuse.org/userfiles/file/Teens/teen_dating_abuse_2009_key_topline_findings.pdf; Campus Safety Magazine (6/13/09)
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