Parents need to know what's going on
- Learn the myths and facts about dating violence.
- Some teens who are abused don't talk about it.
- There are warning signs of abuse.
- Teach your teenager that respect is the most important thing in a dating relationship.
- Learn how to talk with your child about dating violence.
Romantic and sexual feelings develop during the teen years. Teenagers are starting to date and experiment with different types of relationships. It is fun and exciting to meet someone new, and sad andwh difficult to break up.
As a parent, you can help your teenager make good decisions about dating. With guidance and support, teens can learn about healthy relationships and get the strength and courage needed to leave those that are not.
There is no place for verbal or physical abuse in a healthy and respectful relationship.
Myths and facts
MYTH: “Teen dating violence is just another way of saying rape.”
FACT: Abuse comes in many forms. Besides sexual violence, it also includes:
- Yelling, swearing, put-downs, and threats
- Being pushed around or hit
- Controlling, bossy, and bullying behavior
MYTH: “Oh, it's not that common.”
- More than 1 in 10 teenagers experience physical violence in a dating relationship.
- When threats and emotional abuse are included, it's even higher.
MYTH: “It only happens to kids from bad homes.”
FACT: Dating violence is not limited to families with a history of violence. It happens to teens from families of all cultures, income levels, and educational backgrounds.
MYTH: “It can't happen to my child.”
- Boys, as well as girls, can be victims of dating violence.
- It can happen in any type of relationship—straight, gay, or lesbian.
- It can occur at any time in a relationship—those just starting or ones that have been going on for a while.
Why teens are silent
There are many reasons why teens don't tell their parents or friends about the violence they are experiencing. They may:
- Feel embarrassed, ashamed, or afraid of getting hurt.
- Be convinced it is their fault and do not know that it is abuse.
- Feel afraid they will be forced to break up or of losing privileges.
- Feel certain that being in a relationship is the most important thing in their life.
- Confuse jealousy with love, and think this is how it should be.
- Be afraid of losing friends. They may think friends would not believe this is happening, and they may feel alone after having lost touch with friends.
- Know the abuser will act nice some of the time, and they are happy when this happens.
- Feel hopeful that things will get better and convinced that they can help or change their partner.
Warning signs of abuse
Some of the following may be just part of being a teenager. But, when these changes happen suddenly or without explanation, there is cause for concern.
- Failing grades
- Dropping out of school or school activities
- Difficulty making decisions
- Changes in personality, becoming anxious or depressed
- Acting out or being secretive
- Avoiding eye contact
- Having “crying jags” or getting “hysterical”
- Constantly thinking about dating partner
- Bruises, scratches, or other injuries
- Sudden changes in clothes or make-up
- Avoiding friends or changing peer groups
- Giving up activities, interests, or family time that previously had been important
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Using alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
- Some teenagers believe that having a baby will help make things better.
- Some girls are forced to have sex.
It is important for you to recognize signs of an abusive relationship.
- Wanting to get serious quickly and refusing to take NO for an answer
- Acting jealous and possessive and wanting to pick partner's friends and activities
- Being controlling and bossy and making all the decisions, not taking opinions of others seriously, and always checking up on partner
- Using threats and “put-downs” when alone or with friends
- Using guilt trips like, “If you really loved me, you would _____.”
- Blaming the victim for what is wrong, like saying, “It's because of you that I get so mad.”
- Apologizing or giving excuses for violent behavior like, “I promise I’ll never do it again,” or “I was drinking and just didn’t know that I _____.”
Your child needs help in either case—victim or abuser
Tips for parents
What you can say