February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM). The reality is that only 33% of teens who are in abusive relationships ever tell anyone. Teens often don’t know how to initiate a conversation about it or are unaware they are in an abusive situation. As a parent or someone who works with teens, you can change this. In honor of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, here are three things you can do to help the teens in your life.
#1 Know that teen dating violence is a real problem
One in 10 high school students has been hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend. This adds up to nearly 1.5 million high school students each year experiencing physical abuse from a dating partner a year. While teen dating violence can affect anyone, women are affected disproportionately more than men. Women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence — almost 3 times the national average.
# 2 Recognize the signs of teen dating violence
Here are some red flags to look out for in your teen:
- Only spending time with their dating partner and isolation from former friends
- Decrease in activities they normally enjoy
- Making excuses or apologizing for dating partner’s inappropriate behavior
- Signs of physical abuse such as unexplained bruising or injuries
- Sudden change in demeanor or self-confidence, especially when hanging out with their dating partner
# 3 Learn how to start a conversation about it
Telling a teen you suspect they are in an unhealthy relationship is tough. You want to protect and help them, but you don’t want to be overbearing. Here are some helpful tips for talking about dating violence:
- Listen, give support and show concern
- Accept what they are telling you
- Talk about the behaviors, rather than attacking the person
- Avoid ultimatums, i.e. telling them they must break up
- Be informed before the conversation begins
- Develop next steps together
This February, let’s break the cycle of teen dating violence. Know it’s a problem, recognize the signs, and start a conversation about it.