Teen Dating Violence: Recognition

Would you recognize signs of dating violence? Many teens don’t report it to friends or family. It can be difficult to recognize despite the significant prevalence. Victims might not say anything out of fear for their safety, embarrassment, low self-esteem, or not recognizing the abusive behaviors. Whatever the reason for the under-reporting, parents and other adults who interact with teens must recognize signs of dating violence to help protect our kids.

Relationships

Teen Dating Violence: RecognitionWe want our kids to develop healthy relationships where they can have fun, grow in their own identity, and be true to their own values. Healthy relationships are founded on honesty, trust, and communication. There is mutual respect.

Dating abuse can happen in any unhealthy relationship. It happens to smart people, rich people, girls, guys, LGBT, and can happen in any community. We see news stories of abusive relationships but it doesn’t always seem real. A new bride murdered.  A teen raped.  A sports figure accused.

Failed recognition

Unfortunately we don’t even know about most abusive relationships. People suffer silently.  How is a parent to know?

Can a teen see risk factors before becoming involved with a risky personality?

Abuser characteristics

Parents might look for the “type” of teen that they want their child to steer away from, but unfortunately, the abusers are not easily identified.

Abusers do not look like drug dealing, tattoo covered, pierced people in tattered clothing.

They are difficult to recognize on first glance because they tend to be popular, smart, good looking, and personable.

They are often good at reading people and responding to other’s desires, making them seem “perfect” initially.

Abusers manipulate others. Have you heard of gaslighting? It’s a common means to make the victim feel responsible.

They gain trust.

They weave deception.

Traits to watch for in an abuser:

  • Blames others for all problems
  • Jealous
  • Impulsive
  • Wants to move quickly into a relationship
  • Criticizes others
  • Does not respect personal boundaries
  • Denies responsibility for actions
  • Takes risks
  • Insulting (you’re fat, you’re stupid, no one else would love you like I do)
  • History of hitting or hurting others
  • Tries to monopolize your time and life – wants to control what you do, who you’re with, even what you’ll wear
  • Seems perfect initially (no one’s perfect!)
  • Mood swings or can’t manage anger or frustration well

What an abusive relationship might look like

Starting out – all seems great!

The relationship typically starts out well. A lot of laughs, good times.

If it didn’t, people would leave.

Power and Control cycle

Abusers have a power and control cycle that builds over time. They gain a little trust, then test with a little control.

Bit by bit they become more controlling and abusive. It builds so slowly many people miss the early warning signs and then are so swept by the cycle that it’s hard to leave.

Abusers want to know your every move, which at first might even seem flattering, but it is a control tactic. They might choose what you wear or where you go. Abusers monitor your phone calls to see who you talk to. They isolate you from your friends and even family so you lose your support group. They put you down so you feel no one else would like you or want you.  Abusers make you feel less of a person and they are “good” to put up with you.

They get jealous (again, flattering on the outset because they “care”). Abusers often apologize for hurting you, but then claim it is your fault that they behave that way.

In truth, they blame others for most of their behaviors and only take credit when things make them look good.

Cool tool

Breakthecycle.org has a really cool interactive wheel to see the relationship between words and actions. Move your cursor around the wheel to get more information on each topic in the orange part of the wheel.

Signs of an unhealthy relationship:

  • One or both people try to change the other
  • Control: one person makes most or all of the decisions
  • Isolation: one or both people drop friends and interests outside of the relationship
  • Fighting: one or both people yell, threaten, hit, or throw things during arguments
  • Verbal abuse: one or both people make fun of the other’s opinions or interests
  • Jealousy and control: one or both people keep track of the other all the time by calling, texting, or checking in with friends
  • Relationship moves quickly to “serious”
  • Mood swings, anxiety, depression, personality changes
  • Physical signs: bruises, cuts, scrapes, showering immediately when coming home
  • Abused feels guilty and “at fault” and makes excuses for their partner
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Multiple sexual partners

Follow your instincts

If you suspect something is not right, act on your hunch and take action to address issues and leave the relationship early if problem behaviors persist.

 

If your teen is in a relationship with someone who is violent, your teen may:

  • Avoid friends, family, and school activities
  • Make excuses for a partner’s behavior
  • Look uncomfortable or fearful around a partner
  • Lose interest in favorite activities
  • Get lower grades in school
  • Have unexplained injuries, like bruises or scratches

If you think your teen might be an abusive person:

Teens who use physical, emotional, or sexual violence to control their partners need help to stop. Don’t make excuses if you think your child has a problem.

If your teen is abusive, he or she may have these characteristics:

  • Jealous and possessive
  • Blames other people for anything that goes wrong
  • Damages or ruins other people’s things
  • Wants to control a partner’s decisions
  • Constantly texts or calls a partner
  • Posts embarrassing information or pictures about a partner online

Next up:

How to prevent and seek help for teen abusive relationships.



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Teen Dating Violence: Stats to Know

Teen dating is an important way for kids to learn about themselves and others, but it can open them up to risky behaviors, heartache, and more. Violence in teen relationships is more common than you might realize, but recognizing warning signs can help protect our kids in their relationships.

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

teen dating violence statsFebruary is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, so it is a great time to learn about this all too common problem.

Today I’ll review the statistics to show just how prevalent it is.

Tomorrow I’ll cover how to recognize unhealthy relationships.

A third post will talk about what you can do to prevent abusive relationships and what to do if you recognize one.

What is teen dating violence and why should we care?

Definition

Teen dating violence is the physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence within a dating relationship, including stalking.

It can occur in person or electronically and can occur between a current or former dating partner.

Lasting effects

Youth who are victims are more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, engage in unhealthy behaviors (use of tobacco, drugs, and alcohol).

They often show antisocial behaviors and think about suicide.

Teens who are victims of dating violence in high school are at higher risk for victimization as an adult.

Dating apps

Dating apps isn’t what this post is about, but it deserves at least a mention. Certainly there’s a lot of teen dating violence with teens who meet in class or through a common friend, but this “service” opens up a Pandora’s Box of risky possibilities.

Teen dating apps?

Sadly, in researching this subject, the first many posts that showed up on my Google search for “teen dating” were teen dating apps. Not adults-only apps, or even apps that pretended to be adult-only.

Apps with “teen” and “dating” in the title.

One of the top search findings was a men’s website with an article about the “best” and “safest” teen dating apps. Yikes! This is on a website designed to attract adult men.

Another advertised that it was for kids 13-17 years of age. I’m not a fan of early teenage kids dating in general, but certainly a 13 year old is too young to safely navigate an online dating service!

As a mother of two teens, this is incomprehensible and scary to me. Why can’t kids meet the old fashioned ways ~ through friends, classmates, clubs, and activities?

On the other hand, I see the draw. So many teens of today haven’t mastered social skills. Kids of all ages today rely on texting to communicate with friends. They aren’t sure how to approach someone they don’t know. Teens find it hard to carry on a verbal conversation.

It’s easy to put your profile out there and search for someone with like-minded personalities. Easy, but not safe!

Thankfully, CommonSenseMedia.org had a high-ranking result to my search. Check out Tinder and 5 More Adult Dating Apps Teens Are Using, Too to see their stats and warnings. I highly recommend Common Sense Media in general for parents to help them moderate their children’s media intake: movies, games, apps, and more.

Dating violence: a very difficult and complex topic  

When teens find themselves in an abusive relationship, they often can’t find an easy way out. Sometimes they’re not even sure if the relationship is healthy or not.

How to separate?

Teens might share friends with their abusive partner. Their friends might think the abuser is wonderful, lending to peer pressure to stay together.

They typically go to school together, so it is difficult to avoid each other entirely.  

Teens might fear trying to leave the relationship safely.  

Victims often have feelings of love and attachment to the abuser, and hope that behaviors will change.

Drawing the line

If teens have lived with domestic abuse at home, they might think the abuse is normal.  

The abusive behaviors tend to lower the victim’s self esteem, making leaving feel less desirable since they feel no one else will ever care about them and a bad relationship is preferable to being alone.  

Guilt

Victims are often confused and made to feel like the abuse is their fault. They are told again and again that “if you didn’t do ___, I wouldn’t have had to ___.” They believe the abuser’s words.

Sometimes the abuse starts so gradually, it takes time to recognize that it’s there. By the time a victim realizes it, he or she may feel that if they say anything or get out of the relationship, others will think they’re stupid for not seeing it earlier. They continue to play the game of happy couple.

Bullying

Teens can experience cyberbullying even when not with their (ex-) partner.

There are no physical signs with verbal or online abuse, but the emotional scars can last a lifetime.

Even physical abuse (pinching, hitting, shoving, slapping, punching, or kicking) doesn’t always leave physical marks. If marks are visible, victims often make up stories to explain how they got there to cover for their partner.

Learn about abuse to help save someone you love from a dangerous relationship!

Stats- in other words, it’s a problem!

2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey

The CDC performs surveys of many risk factors on our children every other year. The 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey is the latest reported. The 2017 report is expected to be published later this spring.

Nearly 70% of students nationwide dated or went out with someone during the 12 months before the survey. The statistics below represent a percentage of these 70% in the 12 months prior to the survey.

  • About 10% had been physically hurt on purpose (counting hit, slammed into something, or injured with an object or weapon) by their date or someone they had dated.
  • Over 10% of students had been forced to do sexual things they did not want to do by someone they were dating or going out with. These included being kissed, touched, or physically forced to have sexual intercourse.

The prevalence of physical teen dating violence did not change significantly from 2013 (10.3%) to 2015 (9.6%).

Other stats

Nearly 1.5 million high school students in the United States are physically abused by dating partners every year.

Females are more likely to be the victims (1 in 4 women have been assaulted by a partner).

Men are also at risk: 1 in 14 men report being victims.

Regardless of sex, it is likely that abusive relationships are underreported due to the nature of the problem.

Tomorrow: How to Recognize Teen Dating Violence 



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