The entire month of February is dedicated to Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention in a nationwide effort to address this issue.  According to the CDC, one in four teens report being the victims of emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual violence each year.  Many communities face this problem, yet, teen dating violence is a topic that is rarely discussed.

In order to promote healthy relationships among teens and young adults, it is necessary to understand what constitutes dating violence.  Dating abuse is “a pattern of destructive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner.”  There are common warning signs and other tools youth, parents, teachers, or mentors can use to determine if a relationship is unhealthy.  LGBTQ youth experience unique obstacles, but there are resources available to help.

Some scary teen dating violence facts:

  • About 1 in 11 teens reports being a victim of dating violence each year, that’s nearly 1.5 million
  • One in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped, or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Approximately 1 in 5 high school girls has been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner
  • Nearly half (43%) of college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors
  • A minority (33%) of youth who were victims of abuse tell someone about it

The impacts of dating violence during adolescence can have long-term consequences.  Victims are at higher risk for risky sexual behaviors, suicide attempts, substance abuse, and further domestic violence.  Girls with a history of physical or sexual abuse are six times more likely become pregnant and twice as likely to get an STD.  There are also long-term effects for perpetrators of violence, including alienation from friends and family, suspension/ expulsion from school, and loneliness.  If they do not get help, perpetrators may develop lifelong patterns of unhealthy relationships causing further violence.

Adolescence is a time when teens learn about relationships with friends, family, and dating partners.  It is a critical period in which they learn how to treat others and themselves developing habits that last a lifetime.  As such, it is necessary to break the silence about abuse and create a culture of healthy relationships starting with adults – parents, teachers, coachers, and others influential in a teen’s life.

Adults who respect themselves, their partners, and their neighbors demonstrate positive behaviors to our children — lessons that will help them lead safe and happy lives free from violence.

Read more of President Obama’s proclamation.