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Teenage Dating Violence

Dating violence (or relationship abuse) is a pattern of over-controlling behavior that someone uses against a girlfriend or boyfriend. Dating violence can take many forms, including mental/emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. In dating violence, one partner tries to maintain power and control over the other through abuse. Dating violence crosses all racial, economic and social lines. Most victims are young women, who are also at greater risk for serious injury. Young women need a dating safety plan.

It can also be defined 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”. Abuse in a dating relationship can be confusing and frightening at any age. But for teenagers, who are just beginning to date and develop romantic relationships, this abuse is especially difficult.

Surveys show dating violence is not uncommon among teens. When the abuse is physical or sexual, it can be easy to identify. Emotional abuse is much harder to recognize, but no less damaging. Sometimes teens may even think it is their fault. They may not know how to tell you about it .

Teenage dating violence also includes emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse, limiting independence, isolation, threats, intimidation, harassment, minimization, denial and blame. According to national studies, approximately one in five female high school students report being physically or sexually abused by an intimate partner. Many teens have trouble admitting that they are in fact involved in an abusive relationship. Oftentimes the victim is made by the victimizer to feel as if the abuse is their fault, that they did something to provoke it, that they deserved it.

Physical dating violence includes the behavior of hitting, kicking, punching, choking, slapping and the emotional dating violence includes the behavior of name calling, public humiliation, threats of physical violence, isolation from friends and family and extreme jealously and possessiveness on the abuser's part. Emotional abuse is especially harmful because after a period of time being told they are worthless and stupid, the victim begins to believe it. There is a loss of self-esteem and they may even begin to believe they deserve the abuse.

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.

Signs of an abusive relationship are when the partner:

•  Is controlling or jealous for instance, they might call a lot.
•  Has a short temper.
•  Puts your teen down. Emotional abuse often occurs before the first slap, push, or grab.
•  Isolates your teen from friends. You may notice that your teen only hangs out with the person he or she is dating.

Teens who abuse their girlfriends or boyfriends do the same things that adults who abuse their partners do. Teen dating violence is just as serious as adult domestic violence. Teens are seriously at risk for dating violence. Research shows that physical or sexual abuse is a part of 1 in 3 high school relationships. Abusive relationships have good times and bad times. Part of what makes dating violence so confusing and painful is that there is love mixed with the abuse. This can make it hard to tell if you are really being abused.

Information about safety plans, communication skills, assertiveness, conflict resolution, emotion management, and faulty relationship and gender role expectations will help students handle tough situations. Schools, parents, teachers, and community organizations all can help identify dating violence and provide support for abuse victims. But teens themselves must also learn how to reach out and help friends who are victims of relationship abuse.

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