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
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?
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.
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 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.
Sometimes teens find themselves in a relationship that leads to human trafficking.
We tend to think of kidnapping when we think of trafficking, but often pimps find vulnerable children online and manipulate them into sex for money without removing them from their homes.
A very good summary of this is available on the The Carlson Law Firm’s blog: PROTECTING YOUR CHILD FROM A ROMEO PIMP.
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.
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.
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%).
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.