In recent years, exposure and awareness regarding the issue of teen dating violence have increased markedly. Sadly, dating violence has become a pervasive adolescent issue. Experts define dating violence as not just physical abuse, but it may also be perpetrated through emotional or psychological abuse. Although not an exhaustive list, dating violence behaviors can include hitting, slapping, pinching, hair-pulling, non-consensual sexual activity, rape, controlling behaviors, stalking, tracking whereabouts, rage, demonstrations of jealousy, yelling, screaming, and name-calling.
Sadly, dating violence is perpetrated by both males and females. Nearly one in five female and male teens say they have been the victims of physical and sexual abuse in dating relationships. And when pinpointing psychological abuse, the percentages jump remarkably to more than 60 percent of both female and male teens. Shockingly, the number of female and male teens admitting to being both perpetrators and victims of psychological abuse is also 60 percent!
With the potential of dating violence occurring both in person or electronically, it is estimated that 25 million teenagers in the United States are victims of abuse and some 23 million teenagers are perpetrators of abuse.
What parents can do regarding dating violence:
- Make your teen aware of behaviors that would indicate dating violence. The concept of physical violence is pretty obvious, but emotional and psychological violence are more nuanced. Discuss these behaviors with your teen.
- Talk with your teen about healthy dating relationships. Talk with your teen about the importance of respect in a dating relationship, so that she or he can recognize disrespect quickly.
- Help your teen understand that abuse doesn’t get better over time. If physical or psychological violence is not stopped immediately, it will almost always progress to worse forms of abuse over time.
- Get to know your teen’s date. The more you know about who your teen is dating, the better your perceptions will become about the type of person he or she is. If your teen’s date makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t overreact, but don’t ignore your gut feelings either. Share your concerns with your teen.
- Consider the potential that your teen may be a perpetrator of dating violence. With teens of both genders saying they are abused in dating relationships, take some time to think through the possibility whether your adolescent has the potential for being an abuser. If he or she is easily jealous, controlling in friendships, or lashes out (verbally or physically) when frustrated or angered, your teen may be more likely to be abusive in a dating relationship. If your teen has some of these traits, help address these issues before he or she enters into dating relationships.