Domestic violence occurs across all spectrums of socio-economics, ethnicity, and age. We must address the issue of teens being victims of violence if we are going to break the cycle. February has been designate as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, bringing much needed attention and resources to the issue of dating violence.
• Approximately one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner—a figure that far exceeds victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth.1
• One in five tweens—age 11 to 14—say their friends are victims of dating violence and nearly half who are in relationships know friends who are verbally abused. Two in five of the youngest tweens, ages 11 and 12, report that their friends are victims of verbal abuse in relationships.1
• Teen victims of physical dating violence are more likely than their non-abused peers to smoke, use drugs, engage in unhealthy diet behaviors (taking diet pills or laxatives, and vomiting to lose weight), engage in risky sexual behaviors, and attempt or consider suicide.1
Digital abuse is a growing form of abuse, particularly among teens. Teens have cell phones, are sending text messages, instant messages and blogging. These new technologies bring with them risk of digital abuse, which can include unwanted, repeated calls or text messages; breaking into email or social networking accounts; or being pressured to send private or embarrassing pictures or videos. Though this issue has gone largely undetected by most adults, it is prevalent in teen life.1
One in three teens say they have been text messaged 10, 20 or 30 times an hour by a partner wanting to know where they are, what they’re doing, or who they’re with. 2 One in four teens in a relationship have been called names, harassed or put down by their partner through cell phones and texting. More than half of teen girls (51 percent) say pressure from a guy is a reason girls send sexy messages or images, and 18 percent of teen boys say pressure from a girl is a reason.3
Our children are our greatest asset and we must protect them. We, as parents, must stay aware of the dangers and address the issues head on with our children. Talk to your children about dating violence and what they or their friends are experiencing. Educate yourself to the dangers and the new ways that abuse is happening. There are many resources available for teens that have experienced dating violence and educational materials for parents and teens to learn more about this very important issue.
1From the Family Violence Prevention fund website (http://www.endabuse.org/)
2 Technology and Teen Dating Abuse Survey, 2007 (conducted by Liz Claiborne and Teen Research Unlimited
3Sex and Tech Survey, National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 2008