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February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, designed to raise awareness about this and related issues. One study found that, in junior high and high school, teens who drank alcohol before age 13 were more likely to be both victims and abusers when it comes to physical dating violence.
Another study found that teenage girls in abusive relationships are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, have eating disorders, engage in unsafe sexual behaviors, and attempt suicide.
It is important to create spaces, such as school communities, where the behavioral norms are not tolerant of abuse in dating relationships.” But preventing and addressing dating violence shouldn’t be limited to just those in the relationships. US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Breiding, M. “What Are the Early Warning Signs of Teen Dating Violence? Retrieved from Signsof Teen Dating on February 14, 2017.“Dating Violence Information for Educators.” Dating Violence: Violence Prevention Works.
Parents, educators, community advocates, and other teens can take steps to prevent and intervene in situations of dating violence as well. Retrieved from February 14, 2017. “Dating Violence Information for Parents.” Dating Violence: Violence Prevention Works.
Teen dating violence is defined as “a pattern of abuse or threat of abuse against teenaged dating partners, occurring in different forms, including verbal, emotional, physical, sexual and digital.” Relationship violence among teenagers is increasingly common, with some researchers reporting that one in ten high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
This abuse begins early, often before the age of eighteen or in early adulthood, as more than half of women (69.5%) and men (53.6%) who have been physically or sexually abused, or stalked by a dating partner, first experienced abuse between the ages of 11-24.
Every relationship is different and teen relationships, which are often fraught with drama and high emotion, can be dynamic and intense. In the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9.4 percent of high school students report being “hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend” in the 12 months prior to the survey. Youth between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest per capita rate of intimate partner violence.Our responsibility — as parents, teachers, mentors, and community leaders — is to guide our young people towards respectful relationships free from harassment and abuse; teach them that it’s OK to walk away from a bad situation; and encourage them to speak out when they see a friend in trouble.In many communities, teens themselves are leading the way in organizing their schools and communities to stand against violence. Six videos created by students for the 2010 Massachusetts District Attorney’s Teen Violence Public Service Announcement (PSA) contest are available for free to the public.
Furthermore, abuse and violence within the dating relationship can have a serious detrimental impact on the victims.