This information is provided through a partnership with the Tennessee Department of Health:
Love is on the mind of many during the month of February. February is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and can serve as the perfect time to start the discussion with the young people in your life about what a healthy relationship looks and feels like.
Dating can be an exciting milestone for teens, but it can sometimes lead to dating violence, both physical and emotional. Nationally 1 in 11 girls and 1 in 15 boys reported dating violence in 2018 (Centers for Disease Control, 2018). One in three teens will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse by someone they’re in a relationship with before they become an adult. In our state, teens are more likely to experience sexual assault than any other age group (Tennessee Department of Health, 2018). LGBTQ teens are more likely to experience all types of violence, including in their relationships, and have additional barriers to recognizing the dangers and to getting help (CDC, 2018).
Violent partners can be of any gender. They often become jealous easily, have explosive tempers, isolate their partners from friends and families, make false accusations, appear bossy or possessive, and will pressure their partners to do things against their will. Here are additional red flags that a teen is involved in an unhealthy relationship;
- Lack of respect: They’ll go along with something even if they don’t think its right, then feel bad about what happens when they’re with their partner.
- Controlling behavior: They always need to know where their partner is and what they’re doing.
- Feeling jealous most of the time: A little bit of jealousy is normal. A lot of jealousy or allowing jealousy to control what goes on between the two will hurt the relationship.
- Trying to change the other person’s behavior: “Its my way or no way.”
Studies show teens who are victims of dating violence are more likely to have problems with school, substance abuse, depression and social experiences. Signs of dating violence often start early. Parents can talk to their kids about healthy relationships in middle school, before they even start dating. Healthy parent-child relationships also lead to more satisfaction in romantic relationships. Adults can start by talking with their children about:
- Setting expectations for how they wanted to be treated in relationships
- Recognizing when a relationship is unhealthy
- Supporting friends dealing with unhealthy relationships
It is also important for adults to model what healthy relationships look like. When children understand what a healthy relationship is, they are less likely to accept dating violence in their own lives. So, what are the signs of a healthy relationship? In a healthy relationship, people:
- Share common interests while having outside friends and social activities
- Show respect for one another
- Make decisions with the goal of helping each other grow into better people
- Settle disagreements respectfully and peacefully
Teen dating violence can be prevented when teens, families, organizations and communities work together to implement effective prevention strategies. Teachers, health care providers, social services professionals, and youth-serving organization staff are all in positions to better see and act on teen dating violence warning signs and to connect teens to prevention programming before problems start. The Tennessee Department of Health’s Rape Prevention and Education program offers training and support for community agencies, schools and sports teams to implement evidence-based prevention programs. These include Coaching Boys into Men, Safe Dates, and Athletes as Leaders.
Teens in unhealthy or violent relationships are often afraid to ask for help. When individual support is needed, teens can visit Love is Respect or call the hotline (866-331-9474) to learn about how to handle abusive teen dating relationships. Teens can also text “loveis” to 22522 for help on their mobile phone.