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Teen Dating Violence
By the age of fourteen, nearly one in every two children has started to date. At this age, it is difficult for children to made responsible decisions regarding their partners and much easier for them to feel as if they are unable to communicate their concerns to their parents or people in authority when they are victims of dating violence. Such violence includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse; and it is believed that one in five women and one in seven men have experienced some form of partner abuse before reaching the age of seventeen.
Forms of Teen Dating Violence
Not all abuse is physical, so it is important to understand that your child may be a victim even if there are no physical signs of an attack. Understanding the forms of teen dating violence can help you detect a problem faster and to educate your child on how to avoid abuse and to report it when it occurs. Here are the types of teen dating violence.
- Physical assault— this is the most blatant form of abuse. The offender may hit, slap, shove or kick the victim. In some cases, the perpetrator may strike the victim with an object or weapon. If you notice that your child is hiding signs of a physical assault such as bruises, marks or other injuries, take action immediately.
- Emotional abuse— teenagers are at a point in their lives where words can shape their self-image and worth. If the person someone is dating calls him or her names, makes threats, spreads defamatory rumors, shouts or engages in cyber bullying, this is classified as dating violence.
- Sexual abuse— any unsolicited sexual contact is considered sexual assault. Many victims suffer in silence because they are ashamed, afraid or do not feel that people will believe them if they come forward with allegations. This puts the onus on parents to be aware of signs of sexual assault, which often include severe changes in behavior, social withdrawal, depression, changes in academic performance and avoidance of the perpetrator.
Impact of Dating Violence on Children
Every victim will process and cope with abuse in a different manner, but there are clear signs that something is wrong and requires investigation. Consider speaking with your child to get to the heart of the issue if you notice any of the following.
- Your child suddenly begins to smoke, drink or take illegal drugs. The sudden retreat into these substances could be an attempt to escape the trauma that your child is enduring due to the abusive relationship.
- Your child begins retreating from social activities. Some abusers will attempt to dictate who the victim can associate with and isolation is a tactic used to maintain control. Withdrawing from friends and family can also be a symptom of depression associated with this abuse.
- You notice physical signs of abuse or signs of cyber bullying. If your child’s mood changes whenever receiving a text or accessing email, this could be the result of digital harassment. The signs of physical assault are much easier to identify.
It is important that your children understand that you are their advocate and that they can come to you with any problems they have without being judged. When educating your children on teen dating violence, reinforce that they have the ability to communicate with you and that you do whatever is needed to protect them. It is during these talks that you can also review ways for your children to identify signs in potential partners that may disqualify them from consideration— such as controlling behavior, manipulation, patterns of bullying or emotional abuse and more.
For more information on teen dating violence, you can refer to these valuable resources.