This month marks 10 years since Congress designated February as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month and Safer Path Family Violence Shelter wants you to know the signs and how to help yourself, your children and your friends.
“TDV is common and affects millions of teens in the U.S. each year,” said Andrea Rathmell, Safer Path Director of Education, Outreach and Prevention. “Nearly half of teens who experience dating violence report that incidents of abuse took place in a school building or on school grounds.”
Data from CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey indicate that one in three adolescent girls in the U.S is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. Safe Dates Curriculum states that if the abuse is happening, it is likely that it will happen again. Most teens identify jealousy and uncontrollable anger as the main reasons for dating abuse. Abuse and violence are often used to establish power and control in a relationship. Any challenge to this power is seen as a threat.
Rathmell added that adults tend to believe that teens will just grow out of the behavior, when in fact, they are more likely to grow into it.
“They are more likely to get dating advice from friends rather than an adult. This is why we need to be proactive when talking to teens about abuse. We need to be talking about these issues, provide teens with tools and resources and intervene when necessary. Let’s put the right information in front of them and empower them with skills.”
According to the CDC, 33% of teens who are in an abusive relationship never tell anyone about it and 81% of parents surveyed either believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they do not know it is one.
The River Newsletter- TCFV reported in 2017 that 136 women were killed by an intimate partner. Of those, six were under the age of 19 with the youngest victim being 14 years old. In 2018, Texas experienced a dramatic increase with 174 women losing their lives to violence. Of these, eight young people lost their lives, including Shana Fisher, 17, of Santa Fe High School, who was murdered by an individual when she refused his advances.
“Teen Dating Violence is real and 100% prevent- able,” said Rathmell, who explained the one way to understand TDV prevention is to use the River analogy.
Suppose you are at a river and suddenly you see a person drowning and they call out for help. You rush to their aid and throw them a life preserver. You help pull them out and they are safe. A few minutes later, there is another person drowning. You do the same and help pull them out safely. But then, there is another person drowning and another and another. You go up stream to try to figure out what is causing people to fall in.
“This is how prevention works. We can provide life preservers for those who are in danger, but we also need to stop the danger before it starts. We need to support our youth and equip them with tools and resources to navigate dating so then they can carry on this knowledge into adulthood,” said Rathmell.
Resources for parents and teens on teen dating violence and prevention can be found at loveisrespect.org, saferpathfvs.org and tcfv.org. You can also visit the Safer Path Facebook Page for free education videos and materials for teens all month long.