Like many tough issues, dating violence isn’t something that people typically talk about. It’s just too heavy for daily conversation. Talk of dating violence among teenagers is limited to school assemblies and “Issue” YA books. It makes sense that a lot of us think that because it’s not talked about, it’s not really a common issue. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. One in three teens, both boys and girls, have experienced some form of abuse (emotional, verbal, physical or sexual) in a relationship.
Love and relationships are centerpieces of teenage life. Drama circles around who’s dating who, who just broke up, who so-and-so has a crush on, which two girls are fighting for this one guy, etc. When you’re dating someone or when you have a crush on someone, you’re not really thinking about the possibility of dating violence. For this reason, most people aren’t prepared for what to do if they start being abused by their significant other and don’t even know what an abusive relationship looks like. This might be the reason why 80% of girls who have been hit by their partners stay in that relationship: they simply don’t know what else to do.
I’ve never been in an abusive relationship, but I’ve seen and known those who have. It’s almost impossible not to know someone who has been in an abusive relationship. Yet society remains woefully uneducated when it comes to dating violence. Most people only think of physical abuse when they think of dating violence, and they only think that females can be abused. But abuse is not limited to physical abuse. It can be sexual abuse (making you do something sexually you don’t want to do or aren’t ready to do) or emotional/ verbal abuse (putting you down and belittling you, controlling what you wear and where you go, being jealous and possessive, isolating you from friends and family, etc.) and it can happen to anyone, girls and boys.
If you or someone you know is being abused, don’t stay silent. Reach out to an adult or call 800-220-8116, A Woman’s Place’s (AWP) 24-hour hotline. Despite what the abuser or other people might tell you, no one deserves to be abused or treated with anything less than respect in a relationship.
Teen dating violence is a widespread problem and this month is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM) so no more silence, it’s time to talk, and if you are a teen please take the pledge with me.
AWP Teen Volunteer