February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

This week’s blog is written by Zoe Daab, Outreach Educator and Jennifer O’Shields, Education Director with SAFE Homes Rape Crisis Coalition.

February — a month spent celebrating romance with flowers, chocolates, and over-stuffed toy bears, but what if your relationship also involved threats, hitting, isolation, and blame?

For one in three high school students, this is often their reality. Did you know that Teen Dating Violence (TDV) often begins between the ages of 12 - 18, and young women between the ages of 18 - 24 experience the highest rate of dating violence; which is almost double the national average.

Although the dynamics of TDV are similar to adult domestic violence, the forms and experiences, as well as the challenges in seeking and providing services, make the problem of TDV unique. So how do you get help or help a friend? What are you rights? How do you talk to your parents? How do you know if your relationship is healthy or not? Below are some answers along with links to specific websites that can provide you with more detailed information.

Teen Dating Violence is defined as the physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional aggression within a dating relationship, including stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and might occur between a current or former dating partner. Youth who experience dating violence are at greater risk for future victimization throughout their lives than the general population and are more likely to:

  • Experience symptoms of depression and anxiety

  • Engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as using tobacco, drugs, and alcohol or risky sexual behaviors that increase their chance of pregnancy or STIs.

  • Exhibit antisocial behaviors

  • Think about suicide

Being able to tell the difference between healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships can be more difficult than you would think. Although there are many signs to pay attention to in a relationship, look for these common warning signs of dating abuse:

  • Checking cell phones, emails or social networks without permission

  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity

  • Constant belittling or put-downs

  • Explosive temper

  • Isolation from family and friends

  • Making false accusations

  • Constant mood swings towards you

  • Physically inflicting pain or hurt in any way

  • Possessiveness

  • Telling someone what they can and cannot do

  • Repeatedly pressuring someone to have sex

Since February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, join loveisrespect.org by downloading this year’s theme guide called “Huddle Up for Healthy Relationships,” and start conversations in your friend circles, schools and communities about healthy relationships. You can also show your support by wearing something orange on February 12th for #Orange4Love Day. If you have questions about dating in general or a specific relationship, or if you are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship; you can call the Love is Respect hotline at 1-866-331-9474, Text "loveis" to 22522 or call SAFE Homes-Rape Crisis Coalition at 864-583-9803 24/7/365. Everybody deserves to be in a healthy relationship free from violence.