According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 10 percent of teenagers – 1 in 10 youth – said they had been hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend. Depending on the teen groups being studied, that number can jump to 35 percent. These numbers speak to the fact that dating violence occurs among teens and poses public health concerns.
A violent relationship can have potentially serious effects. The experience can put someone at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideations as well as the risk of continued abusive patterns in relationships.
What’s also concerning is that 1 in 3 teens who were in an abusive relationship never told anyone about it. Often parents, adults and even friends are not aware that a teen may be in an abusive relationship. The abuse is frequently hidden and the victim may keep the abuse a secret in an attempt to protect the abusive boyfriend/girlfriend and to stay in the relationship. Sometimes friends are the only ones to witness the abusive behavior, so it is important to educate youth about being a helpful bystander and knowing how to respond when a friend is in an unsafe relationship. It is also important to educate youth about the signs and patterns of abuse to raise awareness and to help youth set healthy boundaries and expectations for their relationships.
Students and adults should be aware of “RED FLAG” behaviors that might indicate abuse, such as:
- Extreme jealousy and possessiveness (acting angry when you spend time with other friends or family)
- Controlling behavior (wanting you to answer all their calls and texts immediately)
- Isolating and dominating behavior (wanting you to spend all your time with them)
- Emotional and verbal abuse (putting you down and making you feel afraid to be yourself)
- Anger, threats and intimidation (Extreme anger with threats of hurting you, someone you love or themselves)
- Destruction of property (breaking your phone or other possessions that are meaningful to you)
- Physical abuse (hitting, grabbing, slapping, kicking, choking, or punching you)
Healthy relationships involve both people having a voice and feeing that they can be themselves. Both people should be able to explore interests with their partner and on their own. When conflict arises, it is important to fight fair. Both people should feel respected, as well as emotionally and physically safe.
If you feel you or someone you care about is in an abusive relationship, please contact the Family Justice Center for support at 865-521-6336.