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Teen Dating Abuse

By Kira Doar, AWARE® Program Director

Sometimes, Rachel texts me saying she doesn’t know what she’d do to herself if I ever break up with her. She says if anything happens to her, it will be my fault and I’ll have to live with the consequences forever.

In one of our It’s Not Love® workshop stories, our character’s partner, Rachel, threatens to hurt herself if he, Ben, ever leaves her. Students frequently highlight this point during discussions as an example of emotional abuse since Rachel is using that threat to manipulate Ben’s feelings for her. Even if they are able to recognize and label the unhealthy behavior in the story, confronting a similar scenario in their own lives is very scary and overwhelming. It’s also challenging to navigate this situation as a trusted adult who a young person has turned to for help when their partner threatens self-harm.

While it’s not necessary to be an expert on suicidality, it is important to know about helpful resources and how to support young people in your role as an influential adult in their lives. Here are some ways to support a young person whose partner has threatened to hurt themselves during a break up.

  • Believe them and take it seriously. Do not write off the partner’s threats with statements like, “They’re just being dramatic,” or, “They’ll never actually do it.” Encourage the young person to take it seriously as well. When their partner makes the threat, tell them to validate how the partner is feeling and then reach out to a suicide crisis hotline (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)). If the partner says they have specific plans for how and when they will try to kill themselves, call 911.
  • Encourage them to prioritize their own safety. Let the young person know that they have to keep themselves emotionally and physically safe. If the partner does not make the threat in person, instead of intervening on their own, the young person should reach out to a trusted adult in their partner’s life to let them know what’s happening and to go check on them. This could be a parent, but also a coach, youth director, or teacher. It may be tempting to take back the break up to make the threat end. Remind the young person how that would be a temporary solution and does not address the unhealthy behavior in the relationship.  Taking back the break up can put the young person back in danger.
  • Tell them it is not their fault. Tell the young person that they are not responsible for their partner’s actions and are not to blame if something bad happens to their partner.
  • Let them know they are not alone. This is a traumatic event for anyone, but especially for a young person who may not know of anyone else who has gone through a similar situation. Let them know that you’re there if they need to talk and encourage them to reach out for additional support from a professional or other trusted adult in their life.

If you or someone you know is in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

For additional information and support resources, visit umttr.org and thetrevorproject.org.

By Kira Doar, AWARE® Program Director

Without a doubt, something feels different right now. Survivors of power-based personal violence, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, and intimate partner violence, have come forward to share their stories on a national stage. And not only are we hearing their stories, but the popular response has actually been to believe them! So now that the previously unawares portion of our population has come to understand how rampant these forms of violence are within our society, what’s next? Use Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (#TDVAM) as an opportunity to prioritize prevention!

    

As media coverage of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements ramped up, so did invitations for JCADA and other Victim Service Providers to participate in panel events, provide trainings to community members, and help review organizational policies. That’s awesome… but it’s not enough. We live in a world of reaction in which we frequently find ourselves organizing around crises. Much like an epidemic, we can’t just respond to treat the symptoms, we need to think about how to prevent it in the future. As #MeToo headlines have inspired adults to rethink their personal and professional interactions with others, we need to remember #TeensToo.


According to national data, one in three adolescents in the United States is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds other types of youth violence.1 Dating and dating violence are also beginning earlier, with research reporting them occurring as early as 7th grade.2 In addition to what young people experience and witness among their peers, five million children in the United States witness domestic violence each year, making them three times more likely to repeat the cycle in adulthood.3


As Rory Gory points out, “We do not go from healthy personal and professional relationships to serial sexual violations in just one step…. Sexual abuse begins by normalizing abusive behavior, at home and in the workplace, when young people begin to date.”4 Institutionalizing violence prevention education can support a culture change. Start the conversation about healthy relationships, equality, and respect with the young people in your life. Have it early and have it often!

To learn more about #TDVAM and how you can show your support this month, check out the AWARE® Teen Advisory Board's #TeenDVMonth toolkit or bring an AWARE® dating violence prevention workshop to your school.


 Vagi, K. J., Olsen, E. O. M., Basile, K. C., & Vivolo-Kantor, A. M. (2015). Teen dating violence (physical and sexual) among US high school students: findings from the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

2 Hokoda, A., del Campo, M. A. M., & Ulloa, E.C. (2012). Age and Gender Differences in Teen Relationship Violence.

3 10 Startling Statistics about Children of Domestic Violence. Childhood Domestic Violence Association.

4 Gory, Rory. How to Stop Teen Dating Violence. Teen Vogue. 

By AWARE® Teen Advisory Board Members - Will Cohen, Hadas Dubrawsky, Ellie Schwartz & Jacob Udler

February is Teen Dating Violence (TDV) Awareness Month! Most people may be focused on Valentine’s Day, but AWARE® is excited that every day in February can be dedicated to empowering young people to build healthy relationships. According to the CDC, nearly 1.5 million high school students in the United States experience physical abuse from a dating partner each year. Rooted in power and control, TDV is a pattern of behavior where a person seeks to gain and maintain power and control over their dating partner. TDV can happen to anyone regardless of gender, race, age, financial status, or sexual orientation and includes physical, emotional, technological, financial, and sexual abuse. It also can have both short- and long-term negative impacts on young people including lower grades in school, substance and alcohol abuse, higher risk of suicide, and experiencing abuse in future relationships.

To help us all raise awareness about teen dating violence, the AWARE® Teen Advisory Board created a #TDVAM social media toolkit. With fast facts, hashtags, and healthy relationship celebration opportunities, you can stay informed and share these important messages with your own network.

 

Fast Facts

  • Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.
  • 1 in 3 adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.
  • 30% of all teens report worrying about their personal physical safety in a relationship.
  • 1 in 6 college women has been sexually abused in a dating relationship.
  • Half of youth who have been victims of both dating violence and rape attempt suicide.
  • 29% have been pressured to have sex or engage insexual activity when they did not want to.

 

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (#TDVAM) Hashtags

  • #TDVAM2018
  • #TeenDVMonth
  • #itsnotlove
  • #loveisrespect
  • #Orange4Love
  • #HealthyRelationships

 

Healthy Relationship Celebrations

  • Respect Week is February 12-16th! Hosted by Loveisrespect.org, this year’s theme is Hands Unite: Do Your Part. Check out their Respect Week Guide for more ideas on how to get involved to raise awareness in your local community.
  • February 13th is #Orange4Love Day! Wear orange to show your support for healthy teen relationships.

 

Don’t forget to follow AWARE® on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for our daily #TDVAM posts!

 

AWARE® is dedicated to empowering teens and young adults with the skills and information they need to build healthy relationships.
Email: aware@awarenow.org • Office: 301.315.8040 • Confidential Helpline: 877.885.2232