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Teen Dating Violence

by: Amy Otis, RN

Teen Dating Violence

Dating violence is defined by the United States Department of Justice as: “the perpetration or threat of an act of violence by at least one member of an unmarried couple on the other member within the context of dating or courtship”. This also includes dating between same sex couples, although most statistics have been gathered from heterosexual couples.

Statistics show that one in three teenagers has experienced violence in a dating relationship. In dating violence, one partner tries to maintain power and control over the other through some kind of abuse. Dating violence crosses all economic, racial and social lines, most victims are young women who are also at higher risk for serious injury.

Women ages 16 to 24 experience the highest per capita rates of intimate violence -- nearly 20 per 1000 women. (Bureau of Justice Special Report: Intimate Partner Violence, May 2001)

Young women need a dating safety plan. (Intimate violent partner - so that includes homosexual dating). Teen dating violence often is hidden because teenagers typically:
 Are inexperienced with dating relationships.
 Want independence from parents.
 Have romanticized views of love.
 Are pressured by peers to have dating relationships.

Teen dating violence is influenced by how teenagers look at themselves and others. Young men may believe:
 They have the right to "control" their female partners in any way necessary.
 “Masculinity” is physical aggressiveness
 They "possess" their partner.
 They should and can demand intimacy.
 They may lose respect if they are attentive and supportive toward their girlfriends.

Young women may believe:
 They are responsible for solving problems in their relationships
 Their boyfriend's jealousy, possessiveness and even physical abuse, is "romantic."
 Abuse is "normal" because their friends are also being abused.
 They think they can "cure" the abusive boyfriend
 There is no one to ask for help.

Teenagers can choose better relationships when they learn to identify the early warning signs of an abusive relationship. Teens can choose better relationships when they understand that they have choices, and believe they are valuable people who deserve to be treated with respect.

Early warning signs that your date may eventually become abusive: Extreme jealousy, controlling behavior, quick involvement, mood swings, alcohol and drug use, explosive anger, isolates you from friends and family, uses force during an argument, shows hypersensitivity, blames others for his problems or feelings, verbally abusive, has abused former partners, threatens you with violence.

Common clues that indicate a teenager may be experiencing dating violence:
 Physical signs of injury
 Truancy, and or dropping out of school
 Failing grades
 Changes in mood or personality
 Use of drugs/alcohol -- where there was no prior use
 Emotional outburst
 Isolation from friends and family

Help is available for teenagers! If you are a teenager involved in an abusive relationship, you need to remember that no one deserves to be abused or threatened.

Dating Safety

You may want to consider double-dating the first few times you go out with a new person. Before leaving on a date, know the exact plans for the evening and make sure a parent or friend knows these plans and what time you expect to be home. Let your date know that you are expected to call or tell that person when you get in.

Be aware of your decreased ability to react under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you leave a party with someone you do not know well, make sure you tell another person you are leaving and with whom. Ask a friend to call and make sure you arrived home safely.

Trust your instincts. If a situation makes you feel uncomfortable, try to be stay calm and think of a way to remove yourself from the situation.

If someone hurts you or makes you feel scared or bad in any way, it’s important to talk about it and tell someone what is happening. Tell your parents, a teacher or another adult you can trust. You can also go to a local domestic violence program in your area for help. If you are unsure of that, just look in the yellow pages under "Abuse" or "Domestic Violence."

The National Domestic Violence Hotline in the USA is: 800-799-7233

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