July/Aug. 2011 - Helping Your Teen Understand Physical and Emotional Dating Violence
By Lou Phelps
When our children begin to date, it’s a scary time for parents – we can conjure up a hundred things to warn them about. But, it’s also an important time be in tune with our kids and the people they are dating because even at their young age, they can be exposed to dating violence which can be physical, emotional or sexual.
This takes place for guys as well as girls. Many Moms that have raised teenaged sons can share with you their version of the ‘girlfriend from heck’ experiences where they watched their son being manipulated, with their emotions twisted like a dish rage.
Physical dating violence occurs when a partner is pinched, hit, shoved or kicked.
Emotional dating violence means threatening a partner or harming his or her sense of self-worth. Examples include name calling, shaming, bullying, embarrassing on purpose, or keeping him/her away from friends and family.
And sexual dating violence is forcing a partner to engage in a sex act when he or she does not or cannot consent. It’s important to talk with our kids about all three, and to look for signs of any of it taking place.
Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime. Experts say that dating violence often starts with teasing and name calling - behaviors that are teens often think are a “normal” part of a relationship. But these behaviors can lead to more serious violence like physical assault and rape.
Dating violence can have a negative effect on health throughout life. Teens who are victims are more likely to be depressed and do poorly in school. They may engage in unhealthy behaviors, like using drugs and alcohol, and are more likely to have eating disorders. Some teens even think about or attempt suicide. And, teens who are victims in high school are at higher risk for victimization during college when they’re away from us, and on their own.
Studies show that people who harm their dating partners are more depressed and are more aggressive than peers. Other factors that increase risk for harming a dating partner include:
• Trauma symptoms
• Alcohol use
• Having a friend involved in dating violence
• Having problem behaviors in other areas
• Belief that dating violence is acceptable
• Exposure to harsh parenting
• Exposure to inconsistent discipline
• Lack of parental supervision, monitoring, and warmth
Dating violence is a serious problem in the United States according to the U.S. Dept. of Health which states that many teens do not report it because they are afraid to tell friends and family, and:
• 72% of 8th and 9th graders reportedly “date”
• 1 in 4 adolescents report verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse from a dating partner each year
• About 10% of students nationwide report being physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past 12 months.