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October is National Domestic Violence month and we can’t let it go by without addressing domestic violence in teen relationships. According to the statistics:

  • 1 in 3 girls in the US is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence. (loveisrespect.org)
  • Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, almost triple the national average. (loveisrespect.org)

The truth is, girls are either experiencing or witnessing domestic violence occur on high school campus all around the country. It’s happening. I have facilitated FANCY Teen Girls workshops with middle and high schoolers over the last 7 years and anytime I start working with a new group they ask to talk about relationships. Healthy relationships. Every single time. The fact is, many girls aren’t aware of what domestic violence truly is. They perceive a controlling and overbearing partner who shows them all the attention they need – is love. Unfortunately, in many cases, this partner is the only person showing genuine interest in them – and who they are, versus who their family perceives them to be.

How do you identify domestic violence?

During our FANCY Teen Girls workshops, we discuss what domestic violence looks like – how to identify it – and what to do if you or someone you know is experiencing it. We also discuss that domestic violence can occur between friends as well – not just boyfriend/girlfriends. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Dating violence is a type of intimate partner violence. It occurs between two people in a close relationship. The nature of dating violence can be physical, emotional, or sexual.

  • Physical—This occurs when a partner is pinched, hit, shoved, slapped, punched, or kicked.
  • Psychological/Emotional—This means threatening a partner or harming his or her sense of self-worth. Examples include name calling, shaming, bullying, embarrassing on purpose, or keeping him/her away from friends and family.
  • Sexual—This is forcing a partner to engage in a sex act when he or she does not or cannot consent. This can be physical or nonphysical, like threatening to spread rumors if a partner refuses to have sex.
  • Stalking—This refers to a pattern of harassing or threatening tactics that are unwanted and cause fear in the victim.

Dating violence can take place in person or electronically, such as repeated texting or posting sexual pictures of a partner online.

Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime. Teens often think some behaviors, like teasing and name calling, are a “normal” part of a relationship. However, these behaviors can become abusive and develop into more serious forms of violence.

The most disheartening part of the conversation is the lack of reporting and the lack of awareness amongst parents. According to loveisrespect.org:

  • Only 33% of teens who were in a violent relationship ever told anyone about the abuse.
  • Eighty-one (81) percent of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue.

Though 82% of parents feel confident that they could recognize the signs if their child was experiencing dating abuse, a majority of parents (58%) could not correctly identify all the warning signs of abuse.

Is your child experiencing domestic violence?

In their article, loveisrespect.org provides ways you can look for some early warning signs of abuse that can help you identify if your child is in an abusive relationship before it’s too late. Some of these signs include:

  • Your child’s partner is extremely jealous or possessive.
  • You notice unexplained marks or bruises.
  • Your child’s partner emails or texts excessively.
  • You notice that your child is depressed or anxious.
  • Your child stops participating in extracurricular activities or other interests.
  • Your child stops spending time with other friends and family.
  • Your child’s partner abuses other people or animals.
  • Your child begins to dress differently.

Here are some additional tools for you to download to get the dialogue started: http://www.loveisrespect.org/resources/download-materials/.

How to handle domestic violence

As a parent – if you see signs of domestic violence – be prepared to listen, not judge or reprimand. Provide support to your teen, show concerns, and focus on the behaviors vs. the person. Your teen needs to know they can trust you with this information, and that they won’t “get into trouble” for disclosing their experiences. Most important – decide what the next steps will be – together. Keeping the lines of communication open is very important. You don’t want your teen to shut down on you in fear of what may happen next.

We are here to help! DETOUR Empowers host monthly FANCY Teen Girls workshops every 3rd Saturday at O’Farrell Charter School from 8 am – noon. Visit our website for details and registration www.detourempowers.org.

Allow this topic to be a conversation starter to bring you closer! Your healthy relationship with your teen is always most important!

Additional resources:

www.detourempowers.org

Loveisrespect.org

https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/teen_dating_violence.html

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