Teen Dating Violence—Know the Signs and Stay Safe

By , 18, Staff Writer
February 28, 2020

Ever since joining (and now running) the SPEAK club at my school, I’ve learned a lot about teen dating violence. SPEAK is a part of a New Jersey nonprofit called Safe+Sound Somerset, whose mission is to “empower survivors of domestic abuse and engage the community to break the cycle of violence.” There are different SPEAK clubs in various high schools that advocate for those affected by domestic violence and raise awareness about this issue.

If I hadn’t joined, I probably wouldn’t know anything about dating violence other than that it exists. So, it’s important to me that other teens learn about dating violence and that those who are dealing with it know that they’re not alone. Without knowledge, how can we make it better? That’s why we recognize Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month in February, to spread awareness.

Unfortunately Common

Dating violence in teens is more common than most people think or would like to believe. According to the Centers for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey

  • Nearly one in 11 female and approximately one in 15 male high school students report having experienced physical dating violence in the last year.
  • About one in nine female and one in 36 male high school students report having experienced sexual dating violence in the last year.

Abuse comes in many forms, including emotional, cyberbullying, isolation/intimidation, social status/peer pressure and sexual coercion.

Know the Signs

Dating as teens is not always risky, of course! But it’s important to know the red flags. I’ve learned from SPEAK Club that some concerning behaviors are excessive jealousy, unexpected anger and rage, preventing a partner from spending time with other people, constant monitoring, false accusations and bullying. However, recognizing these red flags is not always easy. It can be hard to admit that something feels wrong. Sometimes, people have talked to me about their relationships, and I’ve noticed the red flags before they do. When this happens, I make sure to talk to them about it, but not in an accusatory way. I always want them to understand that I have their best interest at heart, and I’m not just telling them what to do. Sometimes it’s challenging because it might be hard to accept that a relationship isn’t “perfect,” but it’s still important to talk to them.

You Deserve to Feel Safe

Everyone has a right to emotional and physical safety. According to the Teen Safety Planning portion of the Safe+Sound Somerset website, some ways to take care of your emotional safety are 1) trusting your instincts 2) setting boundaries 3) remembering that it’s not your fault and 4) taking time for you.

Respect, communication, trust and boundaries are the basis of a healthy relationship. No one should ever feel powerless in their relationship, and if you feel that way, or if you think you are making someone feel that way, reach out. There are resources if you believe you are in an unsafe situation (see below). Talk to friends or a trusted adult. It’s O.K. to ask for help.

Websites like BreaktheCycle.org, LoveIsRespect.org and SafeVoices.org can help you learn and identify the signs of dating violence. For immediate help, visit TheHotline.org or call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, a free 24-hour resource.

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