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What is Teen Dating Violence, exactly? It sounds like it would be easy to tell our young’uns, “Don’t hit each other,” and be done with the subject, right?

Unfortunately it is not as clear cut as that. Dating Violence can happen at any point in our lives, and either male or female party can be the victim. We are focusing on TEEN Dating Violence specifically, in the hopes we can eliminate the patterns young people carry over into future relationships as a result of Teen Dating Violence.

Now, let’s be clear. Unhealthy doesn’t sound too serious, right? But abusive does. What is the difference? Unhealthy becomes abusive if it isn’t corrected by either party. It’s more of a volume effect than a quality effect; the larger the numbers of unhealthy behaviors present, the more quickly the relationship turns abusive, rather than simply unhealthy!

What is Dating Violence?

Dating violence is a pattern of unhealthy or abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner.

Calling dating violence a pattern doesn't mean the first instance is not dating violence. It just recognizes that dating violence usually involves a series of unhealthy behaviors over a course of time.

Every relationships is different, but the one thing that is common to most abusive dating relationships is that the violence can escalate over time and becomes more and more dangerous for the young victim. Physically, yes. But it is most damaging emotionally. They lose self-esteem and the unhealthy or abusive behavior becomes their new “normal.” A “normal” they can carry into future relationships, as far as their expectations and behavior. 

Who Experiences Dating Violence?

Any teen or young adult can experience violence, abuse or unhealthy behaviors in their dating relationships. A relationship may be serious or casual, monogamous or not, short-term or long-term. Dating abuse does not discriminate – it does not see gender, sexual identity, economic status, ethnicity or religious preference. 

What Does Dating Violence Look Like?

Teens and young adults experience the same types of abuse in relationships as adults. This can include:

  1. Physical Abuse: Any intentional use of physical force with the intent to cause fear or injury, like hitting, shoving, biting, strangling, kicking or using a weapon.
  2. Verbal or Emotional Abuse: Non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking.
  3. Sexual Abuse: Any action that impacts a person’s ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs, including rape, coercion or restricting access to birth control.
  4. Digital Abuse: Use of technologies and/or social media networking to intimidate, harass or threaten a current or ex-dating partner. This could include demanding passwords, checking cell phones, cyber bullying, sexting, excessive or threatening texts or stalking on Facebook or other social media.

There are many warning signs; here are ten common unhealthy/abusive behaviors:

  1. Constant contact (2 or more texts a minute), 15 or more a day.
  2. Demanding to know where you are, who you’re with, why you aren’t texting them right now.
  3. Constantly putting you down or belittling you, your thoughts, goals, or activities
  4. Extreme insecurity or jealousy
  5. Emotional blackmail – using your desire to help or support them to control /manipulate/guilt trip you.
  6. Explosive temper
  7. Isolating you from family or friends
  8. Making false accusations - of flirting, cheating, lying, looking too attractive on purpose
  9. Mood swings- including excessive apologizing
  10. Physically hurting you in any way
  11. Possessiveness – (you’re mine/only I can call you that nickname) or (me and you against the world)
  12. Telling you what to do, what to wear, how to look, to whom you may speak
  13. Checking your cell phone or email without permission

How do we combat Teen Dating Violence?

We can start by educating our young people (of any age!) about healthy relationships. Not just with dating partners, but also friends, family, teachers or any other person in their lives. When we begin training early, it becomes second nature for them, and they treat and expect to be treated properly. They have natural boundaries and expectations for the behavior of others. We can educate our young dating age people that they deserve and should demand healthy relationships with their dating partner. And we can educate them regarding what a “normal” relationship is, what being respectful to their dating partner looks like, and what a healthy relationship should be: respectful, considerate, and mutual.

If we are still looking at an easy command for our kids regarding dating violence; I think it’s much more accurate to just say, “Treat each other with respect.” And make sure they know what that means.

If you or a loved one is in an unhealthy, abusive or violent relationship, please get help. Visit loveisrespect.org for more information, chat with a peer advocate online, call 866.331.9474 or text "loveis" to 22522.

There are SO many resources with great information, but I have listed a couple above. :-)

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