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Teen Dating Violence: What is it?


"Teen Dating Violence: It's Time to Talk" is the second article in a 3-part series discussing Teen Dating Violence from our Teen Contributing Writer, Ella. Please also see Part 1: Sexting and Part 3: Solutions. Statistics are clear: According to the CDC , one in four teens will experience dating abuse during this coming year. (LoveisRespect) Teen dating violence is more prevalent than most teens realize, and when encountered most teens don’t know how to handle it. It's also in the news, and not just because it is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

Teen Dating Violence

Sunday, at the 2012 Grammy's, Chris Brown made an appearance. Dozens of young women posted tweets about Chris Brown jokingly saying "he can beat me." But teen dating violence is no joking matter. In fact, if we understood it more fully, we wonder if the futures of former University of Virgnia lacrosse player George Huguely and his late ex-girlfriend Yeardley Love (both pictured above) might have been different.  For those of you unfamiliar with the story, there was a history of violence between the 2 college lacrosse players that allegedly resulted in her death. George Huguely is now on trial for her murder.

From Ella:  In 2009, Chris Brown made headlines when news broke that he had violently assaulted his girlfriend, Rihanna. Pictures of Rihanna’s bruised and swollen face surfaced. Appearances and performances were cancelled. Chris Brown’s songs were pulled from radio stations across the country. Suddenly, this high profile couple had brought teen dating violence to the front of everyone’s mind and the reaction of the collective community of fans, spectators, and the media was not what we might have expected.

At the time, questions of “who was at fault,” and, “what really happened,” were everywhere. According to one poll, 50% of teens truly believed that Rihanna was to blame for the altercation (Boston Public Health Commission; Start Strong Initiative). Now, almost three years later, Chris Brown’s songs are back on the radio and now, the young man who was once the teen pop-star that made my 15-year-old heart throb, has made a comeback. But why did so many of us teens truly believe Rihanna was to blame More importantly, was the reaction from our generation a reflection of our view on dating violence within our own social groups?

Statistics state that 1 in 4 teens experience some form of abuse in their romantic relationships, and with only 33% of teens reporting the abuse, it is clear that there is a gap in our own understanding of what is a healthy relationship (Love is Respect). These are signs of an unhealthy relationship to help you understand what dating should be.

1. Abuse is always about the abuser’s need to control, not about anything you did or didn’t do. Abuse can come from either partner, regardless of gender, and takes place in three main ways; physical, sexual, and psychological / emotional. It can often be difficult to recognize the early signs that often separate a protective bf/gf from a possessive bf/gf.

2. Possessive/controlling behavior usually begins in very subtle ways and escalates as a partner’s need to control becomes greater. A bf/gf who texts a lot is cute for a little while, but when, “Hey! How are you?” turns into “Where are you?” and “Why didn’t you answer the phone when I called?” and “Who are you with?” you might find that you have a problem. Check out this link for more warning signs about abuse.

Some of the more extreme abusive behaviors include a partner pressuring you to go further than you want to sexually. It is always within your rights to say no to any unwanted sexual interaction regardless of how long you have been dating or how far you may have gone before. If your partner does not respect your boundaries, pressures you, or tries to force you into something, they are wrong, and it is probably best to walk away from that relationship.

3. It is never appropriate for a partner to hit, smack, punch, shove, restrain, scratch, or kick you. Any attempt to cause physical harm to your body is abuse. Period. As a teen this should be a deal breaker, even if the person says they are sorry and promises never to hurt you again.

If you are dating someone who exhibits these behaviors, or if several of the abusive behaviors listed in the above link sound like your partner, it may be time to get out of your relationship. Reach out to a trusted adult; a teacher, a school nurse or counselor, or a parent. If that is not an option for you, please go to loveisrespect.org and talk to a peer advocate through their live chat or call 1-866-331-9474.  Also, if you suspect a friend might be in an abusive relationship, please also follow these suggestions to seek help and information.