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Not My Child: The Truth About Teen Dating Violence

February 27, 2011

It’s a relatively undisputed fact that most parents slip effortlessly into a state of denial during their kids’ teenage years.  The evidence manifests itself in many ways, not the least of which is a “not my child” mentality.  Choosing to believe that your daughter will be a virgin until she’s married, and that your son won’t even go near alcohol until his 21st birthday is much easier than facing the possibility of your children finding themselves in adult situations, facing adult consequences.  But while it may be easy and relatively understandable to live in blissful ignorance, it is often detrimental to the well being of most adolescents who, despite what they would have their parents believe, still need guidance and protection.

Many of you may be reading this, still thinking that dating violence amongst teens is not an issue that merits much concern, on your part.  If you have teenagers, or teenagers in your life, think again:

  • 47% of teenagers admit to having been in a controlling relationship.
  • 24% say they have been the victim of technological abuse. (Sexting, constant phone calls, threatening IM’s/e-mails, excessive/obsessive contact via social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter)
  • 19% report verbal abuse. 17% sexual. And 12% physical.

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Protection month.  Teen Dating Violence, or “TDV,” as well most other forms of abuse, often goes overlooked because of the difficult subject matter and the controversy surrounding it.  And while most parents will revel in the small victory of avoiding an argument with their teenagers, a discussion on TDV is one that most definitely needs to be had.  As challenging as it is for adolescents to get their bearings in an adult world, it’s even tougher when you take into account that kids today receive so many mixed signals.  From parents, to peers, to society and the media all saying different things, it’s no wonder teenagers end up making unwise choices.  Do it.  Don’t do it.  Do it, but don’t tell anyone.  Do it, but be safe about it.  Sometimes it’s all a kid can do to figure out how they want to respond to a given situation.  When it comes to the issue of teen dating violence, most kids are uncomfortable talking to their parents, and most parents have trouble identifying warning signs that may indicate their child is in an abusive relationship.

Studies show, up to 82% of parents surveyed feel confident they’d recognize signs, indicating dating abuse.  While 58% failed to properly identify the symptoms.  Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • Sudden wardrobe changes, ie. long sleeves when it’s warm out, baggy clothes, excessive makeup.
  • Evasiveness when it comes to discussing, and defensiveness to statements or generalizations made about significant others.
  • Unnecessarily overly detailed accounts of how minor injuries were sustained.
  • Drastic change in demeanor whenever significant other is around.

These are just a few signs that someone you love may be in an unhealthy relationship.  If you suspect something is wrong—even if it makes you uncomfortable—speak up.  It could mean saving a life.

*Special thanks to http://www.loveisnotabuse.org for the statistics on TDV.

Parents: for more information on how to decipher signs of TDV and how to talk to your teen about it:

http://www.eap.partners.org/worklife/domestic_abuse/what_parents_need_to_know/what_parents_need_to_know.asp

Teens: To find out more about what  constitutes an unhealthy relationship:

http://www.seeitandstopit.org/pages/

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