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article imageTeen Dating Violence and Awareness Week: What are your plans?

By Nikki Weingartner     Jan 16, 2009 in Health
The first week in February marks the nation's fourth annual awareness week for Teen Dating Violence. What are your plans? From education to artwork, this is an opportunity to intervene and stop the cycle of violence.
Horrific crimes of violence launched between countries in conflict often result in heated debates, with brothers and sisters sometimes taking opposite sides. The passion that flares from what occurs across the globe is real and meaningful to those who take to heart the act of senseless violence. Yet every day in our own country, horrific crimes of a different type are increasingly more common and somehow, receive little press.
The topics of domestic violence and interpersonal violence are once again making their way onto media forums as one of the nation's leading paper's recently headlined an article on Teen Dating Violence.
Teen Dating Violence is a national epidemic that is often not recognized until its too late. There is no certain area of town where dating violence can be found; no particular race where it breeds faster. In fact, Teen Dating Violence knows no race, color or religion. It sees no social class, education level or gender. It is nationwide and in every school where teens are dating and engaged in relationships.
The reality is that the only way to stop it is to intervene.
At least one out of every five teenagers have been hit or slapped by their partner.
At least one out of every four teenagers have experienced isolation or attempted isolation from their family because of their partner.
At least one out of every three teenagers have been scared that their partner would hurt them physically.
That's not girls...that's teens.
When it comes to sex, nearly one out of every four teen girls has been pressured to have unwanted sex with their partner. Saying "no" did not mean no and as a result, nearly one quarter of teen girls were brow beaten into unwanted sex. One in three actually believe that it is an expectation in the relationship.
Two states in the entire United States of America, Texas and Rhode Island, have taken the steps to increase risk prevention in this vulnerable group of teenagers by going to legal lengths such as implementing policies that address Teen Dating Violence, even requiring that it be taught at certain grade levels. New York is beginning to realize the serious problem for teenagers and has finally expanded its laws to allow teens in abusive relationships to obtain restraining orders in family courts instead of from the long and drawn out criminal justice system.
Stories of relationships between teenagers that turned tragic were becoming more common and were even the reason for some state legislation to say enough is enough, thereby enacting laws that would require minimum standards in dealing with dating violence and teens but that would also open up the door for educating youth on healthy relationships, self-worth, conflict management and other prevention tactics. Still, the bolus of the nation continues to look away when it comes to helping these children.
In some cities, community assessments continue to reveal that people blame the victims for their abuse. "If she hadn't of been drinking....; If she wasn't wearing such a revealing skirt.....; If she wouldn't hang around kids like that....; If she would have just left...." all seem to be common reasons given by those questioned about what they know of dating violence. Many continue to blame the victim when the truth is, there is no excuse for abuse.
The warning signs are often ignored not because people choose to ignore them. Despite a few individuals who actually somehow believe that slapping someone around is acceptable or that abuse is a private matter and choose to look away, the vast majority of people don't notice the signs and teens are too embarrassed to report abuse, especially if it is verbal or emotional.
That can only serve to exacerbate the problem.
Loveisrespect.org is the national helpline geared for teens and the majority of concerns are from girls with questions about their boyfriends controlling what they wear or excessive or abusive texting. Still, with appropriate education and awareness, adults and other teens can often help guide a victim or even someone who thinks they might be abusive in the right direction.
Statistically, the victims are females and the abusers are males, although not exclusively. Reasons for being abusive range from issues with gender roles to having come from having seen their mothers or another family member abused by a male. Females who are abusers typically aren't physical and rely more on the bullying types of abuse such as name calling. Regardless of the reason, the common link is that it is about power and control. For instance, obsessive texting or telling a partner what to wear is about gaining control and yet, outsiders may miss this sign of abuse.
The pattern of abuse, which often begins as emotional and may be more like mind games, can lead to a very confusing and painful relationship; one that sometimes has a fatal outcome.
Ortralla Mosley and Jennifer Ann Crecente were the stories that led to Texas' mandatory Teen Dating Violence Policy. Lindsay Ann Burke was murdered by her ex boyfriend in a jealous rage. An act that spawned the education of dating violence in Rhode Island schools. However, those are just three of the hundreds of teens who die at the hands of their boyfriends every year.
In 2006, a formal report revealed that 120 women were killed in the state of Texas as a result of interpersonal violence, leaving over 75 children without a mother. Of those women, about a dozen were teenagers killed by boyfriends or husbands they had dated and even married as younger teens.
The cycle of violence does not end at 21. It does not end with marriage. More often than not, it does not end when the victim finally leaves the relationship. The cycle of violence often escalates and evolves into a longer relationship of abuse that exposes children to a tool that can carry over, and often does, into their relationships. Without appropriate resources, the cycle of violence often ends in a tragic outcome.
During the week of February 2-6, 2009, join the nation in its fourth annual National Teen Dating Violence Awareness week and help bring awareness to your community. If nothing more than sharing a few bits of information on occurrence, signs, resources and prevention with a someone you love, you can still be a part of stopping the cycle of abuse.
For more information on Teen Dating Violence:
Statistics on teens and abuse
Warning Signs
Dating Violence and Teens
How to empower youth to break the cycle
More about Dating violence, Abuse, Awareness
 
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