Awareness of Teen Dating Violence

Teen romance can quickly turn risky

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Awareness of Teen Dating Violence

photo by Katie Golden

photo by Katie Golden

photo by Katie Golden

Megan Wilson, Reporter

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One of the lasting memories of each teenager’s high school years is their first romance. For many, this is a time for first dates and first loves. As wonderful as these memories can be, it can also be time for their first experiences of teen dating violence. The happy feeling of dating and being in love for the first time can easily be tarnished by abuse or violence at the hands of a loved one. Not all high school relationships are as picture perfect as portrayed in movies and TV shows. It is estimated that each year, there are over 1 million high school students suffering from teen dating violence.

“[Victims should] find an adult that they trust in this world if something is happening to them,” said Mr. Longo, the school’s student assistance coordinator. “It is a complicated issue because a lot of times the victims don’t want to come forward for a lot of good reasons,” said Mr. Longo, Student Assistance Coordinator at NASH.

“We encourage that student get immediate help if they are worried about themselves in a situation or if they think a friend is in a dangerous situation.””

— Mr. Longo, Student Assistance Coordinator

Statistics show that girls are at a higher risk than boys. One in five high school girls have been battered, physically or sexually, by a dating partner. This is an alarming, potentially life-threatening statistic. Many victims are afraid to tell people about their experiences. They are often scared of the potential consequences and worried that the abuse will get worse if they tell someone. Even though most parents have conversations with their teenagers about dating, 3 out every 4 parents reported that they did not discuss or warn their teens about dating violence. As a consequence, most were unaware that their child was being abused. The number of teen dating victims has risen steadily in the US in the past couple of years. Some of the warning signs or examples of dating violence include: name calling, isolating their partner from friends, forced sexual activity, threats of violence and stalking. 82% of parents report that their teens received 30 or more emails or text per day from the offenders in an attempt to keep tabs on their partners.

Teen dating violence can impact victims in a variety of ways. This violence can have short term consequences but also many long term effects as well. Victims are scared of what is going to happen to them. As a result, many end up turning to bad habits that can have very serious consequences for them in the future. Many teens try to keep the violence to themselves and handle it on their own. Since teenagers are typically not equipped emotionally to handle the wide range of emotions this behavior can trigger, many victims experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, and antisocial behaviors which can quickly lead to unhealthy behaviors such as drugs, alcohol, and suicidal thoughts. Victims will often develop a lack of interest in activities, a sudden want for change in class schedules, dropping of grades and weight, mood swings, decreased social contact, or isolation from friends. Typically, victims of teen dating violence make excuses for their partner’s behavior. Depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and drug use can have serious health consequences for these teens not only now but also in the future. Keeping these feelings inside is unhealthy; telling someone is the best way to start the process of ending the violence and healing emotionally and physically.

If you feel you are in a violent relationship, there are hotlines that you can call to get support and advice. The main hotline is 1-866-331-9474, or you can text “ loveis” to 22522 to receive confidential assistance. These helplines have trained advocates who are available to educate, support, and advocate for those in need of help. Another source that you can use is the loveisrespect.org. The website provides articles, blogs, quizzes and much more for you to learn about teen dating violence and find out if you are in a violent relationship.

“Talking to your school counselor is another way to get help,” Longo added. “Take advantage of the assistance program. We encourage that they go if they are worried about themselves in a situation or if they think a friend is in a dangerous situation.”

Jordan Avigad, a senior, has been bringing awareness of this issue to the NASH community for the past two years.

“At the end of my sophomore year, I went to a panel on domestic abuse,” she said. “There was a speaker from 3ENOW, an organization that does a lot of work with teen dating violence awareness.  The statistics were scary, just seeing how prevalent teen dating violence is. We don’t talk about teen dating violence enough at NA, and since it’s so prevalent across the nation, I thought it would be important to bring greater awareness of the problem to the NASH community.”

Avigad even hopes that next year someone can take over for her and keep the awareness of this issue in and around our community. “I’m hoping to find a junior to take over the initiative next year,” she added. “I hope that someone is willing to take it over. I have everything outlined, so all someone has to do is carry it out.”

As today Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month to a close, Avigad and Longo encourage all students to inform themselves about this important issue. If you are in a dangerous situation and are suffering from violence, speak up and talk to someone about the issues you are facing.