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Monday, 27 June 2022

Ending the Cycle of Teen Dating Violence

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A misconception exists that dating violence only affects adults. However, unhealthy dating behavior can begin at a young age and continue into adulthood. As teens gain independence and spend more time communicating online, the signs of dating violence aren’t always obvious.

Parents and teens themselves may not realize a relationship is abusive or fail to report it until the situation becomes dangerous. The Arizona Coalition to End Sexual & Domestic Violence (ACESDV) reported that from 2008-2021, 202 victims under the age of 18 were killed by a current or former partner. Still, physical violence isn’t always present in abusive relationships.

Types of Dating Violence

There are four kinds of dating violence that teens may experience:

    • Physical violence, or hurting a partner by hitting, kicking or using another type of physical force

    • Sexual violence, which could include posting sexual pictures of a partner online without consent

    • Psychological violence, or use of verbal and non-verbal communication to mentally or emotionally harm a partner and gain control

    • Stalking, or a pattern of unwanted attention and contact that causes fear to the victim or those close to them.

According to a 2017 national survey on teen relationships, 60% of teens have experienced one or more of these forms of violence. Most abusive relationships never begin that way. Teen dating violence usually starts with psychological abuse, which is less noticeable at first, and may escalate to physical abuse.

Short- and Long-Term Effects on Teens

Abusers may start to make decisions for their partners claiming that it’s in their best interests. For example, an abuser may tell their partner not to go out with friends so they can spend time together. Over time, an abuser may prevent their partner from seeing any friends or family and use stalking behavior as a means of control.

Whether violence happens in person or virtually, it can have negative short- and long-term effects on teens. They may experience depression and anxiety, engage in risky behaviors or deal with suicidal thoughts. Violence in early relationships can also make teens more inclined to continue to endure abuse as adults.

How to Prevent Abuse in Teen Relationships

The complexities of teen dating violence may make teens and their parents feel powerless, but that’s far from the truth. By learning the skills they need to maintain healthy boundaries and relationships, teens will be able to pick up on the signs of an abusive relationship.

If a teen opens up about experiencing dating violence, listen, remind them they are not alone, and encourage them to speak out if they feel comfortable. Another way to help is to support and donate to programs like North Star Youth Partnership, which empower teens to build self-confidence and make healthy choices.

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Kasey Shaver

Kasey Shaver, Youth Development Coordinator, has worked at Catholic Charities in the North Star Youth Partnership program since 2007. North Star engages youth ages 11-18 through educational, recreational, leadership and service-learning opportunities. Kasey is an instructor for Baby...Ready or Not and Safe Sitter, as well as the coordinator for Teen Maze.