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article imageToday marks national awareness week for Teen Dating Violence

By Nikki Weingartner     Feb 2, 2009 in World
Today begins the fourth annual National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week. The focus? To not only shine a light on a very real issue facing teens who are dating or in relationships but to bring awareness to friends and family.
It is no secret that tweens and teens are either on the cusp of dating or already involved in a relationship of some sort. They go to the movies, hang out at friend's houses and even text back and forth on their cell phones as a way of spending time together, and regardless of what parents believe would never happen to their child, the reality is that their child could be a victim of a national epidemic.
According to the CDC website ChooseRespect.org, just over 1 in 10 teenagers report being abused by a dating partner annually. When added to the statistics that 1 in 5 teens report being abused by their dating partner at some point and that 1 in 3 teens know of a friend who has been physically abused, it is safe to say that reports of violence often go unreported.
Further, only about 2 teen victims out of every 10 actually leave the physically abusive relationship, meaning that around 80 percent continue to date their partner.
The physical evidence stands, but what about the abuse that cannot be seen?
When you add emotional, verbal and even sexual abuse to the mix, the stats increase dramatically, with 1 in 4 teens reporting dating violence each year. It seems that injuries, bruises and physical harm aren't the only thing that constitutes abuse.
Awareness is key to prevention when it comes to teaching Teen Dating Violence. That means those looking to engage in future dating relationships need to be aware of what a healthy relationship should be and teaching dating rights and other awareness information should be on the agenda. It also means making everyone involved with teenagers aware of possible warning signs that could indicate that either a person in a relationship or a friend or family member of that person could be in a caustic situation.
For instance, most parents would show concern if their daughter returned from a night at the movies with a huge bruise on her eye or cheek. Often, questioning could turn volatile and ultimatums placed by the parent refusing to allow the daughter to hang out with friends. Although the method of parental involvement might not be the best, the parent is often "aware" of physical injuries if they can be seen.
But sometimes those injuries are emotional. Avoiding friends or social events; secrecy; failing grades; changes in clothing or makeup, especially if they become more conservative; anxiety; sudden changes in moods. All too often, those small changes could be viewed as just being a "teen" or even placing blame on the victim without real investigation into the "why," but in reality they might mean more than simple normal adolescent moodiness or grade issues.
Warning Signs of Relationship Abuse:
Jealousy
Criticize and put downs
Control what you wear, where you go, what you do
Excessive texting or instant messaging, especially if jealous or hurtful
Blame victim for hurtful or mean things they say and do
Threaten to hurt themselves or you if you try to leave
Try to prevent you from seeing friends or family
An abusive person may be outwardly nice to other friends or even family members, kind of the "cool" kid in the group or the "popular girl." However, an abusive person may already have a history of bad relationships and blames the others for the relationship failures. They often use guilt trips or pressure to gain compliance and control.
"If you really loved me, you would not wear those jeans in front of other guys."
They want to be in control of things such as decisions, friends and activities and demanding of one's whereabouts. They often dismiss the opinions or feelings of others and may even request unconditional love for them no matter what they do.
Being aware of whats going on in our teen's lives can help prevent something very tragic, just like that which happened to Jennifer Ann Crescente in Austin, Texas. An honor student at an area high school, Jennifer was shot and killed by her boyfriend, a troubled teen who had dropped out of school and whom she had known for some time, only a few months before she graduated high school. Her boyfriend, Justin Crabbe, received 35 years in prison following a plea agreement.
Jennifer's dad posts on the site Jenniferann.org:
Good, decent people that want to help out a friend are sometimes murdered in cold blood.
And the bogeyman isn't always under the bed.
Sometimes he's the kid that lives down the street.
That is why the National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week is so important. The cycle of violence begins somewhere, usually to it being seen close relationships during childhood and inflated gender roles. Still, it isn't something that they grow out of as they are older but rather, it often morphs into the category of Domestic Violence or Interpersonal Violence. Intervention at a young age is now the law in Rhode Island schools following the death of Lindsay Burke, who was murdered by her boyfriend. Her mother recalls the warning signs in an MSNBC article last year, telling how Burke's boyfriend would emotionally and physically abuse Lindsay until he slit her throat in 2005.
Texas is the only other state with mandates for Teen Dating Violence, however they are vague and are in reference to policy only.
This week, school's and organizations across the nation will host events, disseminate pamphlets and even sponsor talks around the issue that is part of reality. With 24 percent of those who are between the ages of 14 and 17 knowing at least one student or peer who has been a victim of dating violence and yet 81 percent of parents believing that teen dating violence isn't an issue at all or they don't really know if it is, that says a lot about what is reality.
For teens or parents who would like more information, just need to talk, or think they might be in an abusive relationship, visit the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline called loveisrespect.org.
Or call: 1-866-331-9474 | 1-866-331-8453 TTY
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