One in four teens experience dating violence, abuse

Anissa Ford's picture

Researchers estimate that at least 72 percent of American eighth and ninth graders are dating.

Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year. And the statistics keep growing because social media, like cellphones and the internet, have made it easier for abusers to victimize partners.

One out of every three adolescent girls in the US is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuses from a dating partner—a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.

One in ten high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped, or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend, and of those, one quarter (or one in four), of high school girls have been victims of physical and sexual abuse abuse.

As technology has become an integral component in our society, it has also become a source of teen victimization and abuse. Cell phones, email and social networking sites play a major role in teenager’s lives as they are used as tools for control, stalking and victimization.

Frequent text messages, threatening emails, and circulating embarrassing photos or messages without consent are warning signs of teen dating abuse. Checking a cell phone or email without consent is also a sign of teen dating abuse that could potentially lead to violence.

Inasmuch as technology has increased communication it has become a primary source of victimization and abuse.

President Obama, a father of two girls, issued a presidential decree on January 31 proclaiming February National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. The President, in his decree, called upon Americans to support efforts in their communities and schools, and in their own families, to empower young people to develop healthy relationships throughout their lives and to engage in activities that prevent and respond to teen dating violence.

But some of the more serious abuses that lead to teen dating violence are also found in some of the everyday teasing, banter and barbs disguised as jokes. Many teenagers are in friendships with people who constantly put them down. This too is a warning sign of abuse.

Teens are often involved with friends who are possessive and tell them what to do and demand to know their whereabouts at all times. These too are warning signs of abuse in teen dating relationships.

Teens involved with those who have explosive tempers, who act extremely jealous or insecure, who isolate others from family or friends, undergo large mood swings, or physically hurt are also abusive friends and dating partners.

The White House reports that one in four teenagers report being the victim of verbal, physical emotional or sexual violence. And without seeking help or counseling, the teen threatens to carry dangerous and unhealthy patterns into future relationships.

The impact of teen dating violence affects not just the teens, but their families, friends, schools and communities. Recognizing February as Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month began six years ago in 2005, when the importance of addressing teen dating violence was highlighted in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Activists encourage everyone to get involved and take action to raise awareness by sending messages on Twitter and Facebook accounts that help young people break the cycle of abuse in their relationships. Organizations like the National Resource Center for Teen Dating Violence has posters, toolkits and postcards available for distribution.

There are also a number of groups, Break the Cycle’s HOPE and the Love is Not Abuse Coalition, for example, to join in the effort to stay informed. There are Teen Dating Violence and Awareness Campaigns taking place all over the nation this month. Click here for more information on becoming involved or joining a campaign.

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