Friday, January 31, 2014

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

You just have to turn on your TV set to know that domestic violence is everywhere. Unfortunately, teens are no exception. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month—offering the opportunity to learn more on the subject and get advice about how to speak to teens about it. Educating kids about what teen dating violence is, how to spot it and what to do about it, can help to keep them safe and happy, as well as lay the groundwork for well-balanced, healthy relationships in the future. And, as teen dating violence is a growing problem, it’s important.

It may seem shocking to contemplate discussing a subject as dark as domestic violence with such a young audience, but unhealthy relationships often start early in life. And, sadly, they can last a lifetime. The numbers are painfully telling:

  • One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a partner they are dating—a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.
  • One quarter of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse.
  • Approximately 70% of college students say they have been sexually coerced. 

What is Teen Dating Violence?
Dating violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used to have control and power over a dating partner. It can be physical (hitting, pinching, shoving, etc.), emotional (threatening, shaming or bullying behavior or isolation of a partner—keeping them away from friends and/or family), sexual (forcing sex), or stalking.

Dating violence doesn’t always happen in person. Increasingly it is electronic harassment like constant texting or embarrassing posts online. If you find that violent behaviors are growing in your relationship, it can be very dangerous. Especially for young people who deal with more peer pressure and are less experienced in relationships than the average adult.

Once you know what to look for, patterns of control are easy to spot. Sometimes it starts as simple teasing or name calling. Some of that might seem quite normal, but it can quickly become more serious, leading to more controlling or even violent behavior.

Warning Signs
As relationships vary so greatly, it’s sometimes difficult to know when a behavior crosses the line from healthy to unhealthy or when it becomes abusive. Be on the lookout for these warning signs:
  • Checking your cell phone or email without permission
  • Constantly putting you down
  • Extremely jealous or insecure
  • Explosive temper
  • Isolating you from family or friends
  • Mood swings
  • Physically hurting you in any way
  • Possessiveness
  • Telling you what to do
  • Repeatedly pressuring you to have sex
  • Pressuring you to send sexually suggestive texts or emails

Why Concentrate on Young People?
  • According to the Bureau of Justice, young women ages 16-24 are most vulnerable.
  • Violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18.
  • The severity of domestic violence is often greater in cases where the pattern of abuse was established in adolescence.
  • Violent relationships in adolescence can put victims at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and further domestic violence.
  • Being physically or sexually abused makes teen girls six times more likely to become pregnant and twice as likely to get a STD.

Not happening around you? Not true.
With one in three teens experiencing violence in their dating relationships, the need for awareness is strong. And with only 33% of teens in a violent relationship even telling anyone about the abuse, clearly we need to start the conversation. If your child isn’t experiencing it personally, chances are they know someone who is and can be of help given the right information.

Teaching teens what is healthy and what is not can go a long way in giving them the tools they need to create healthy relationships that can last them their lifetimes.

This article appears in the February 2014 issue of Lee's Summit Lifestyle Magazine.

Friday, January 24, 2014

January is Stalking Awareness

Anyone who has been the victim of stalking can tell you, it’s a terrifying experience and a reprehensible way of controlling a person—instilling a sense of fear and powerlessness.

Just think of it… someone watching you at any given moment, following you or lying in wait, threatening you… it can keep you off balance, anxious and full of mistrust. In fact, 46% of stalking victims say that fear of not knowing what’s next impacts them deeply. And it is further terrorizing not know if it will ever stop.

Stalking impacts victims in every area of life—1 in 8 lose time from work and 1 in 7 move as a result—affecting them financially and professionally. Emotionally, it takes a tremendous toll—anxiety, insomnia and severe depression are all prevalent among those being stalked.

Although victims are frequently targeted by someone they know—66% of female and 41% of male victims are stalked by current of former partners—sometimes a person has no idea who the perpetrator is.
Stalking affects 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men in the United States. It’s becoming prevalent. A month of awareness allows us the opportunity to get information out about this menacing crime, learn more about it and give access to some useful resources.

Some important facts:
·         Women are nearly 3 times more likely to be stalked than men.
·         The majority of stalkers are male.
·         11% of stalking victims have been stalked for 5 years or more.
·         78% of stalkers use more than one means of approach.
·         Almost 1/3 of stalkers have stalked before.
·         1 in 5 cases of stalking includes the use of a weapon.

Facts around stalking and intimate partner femicide (deaths of women):
·         76% of intimate partner femicide victims have been stalked by their intimate partner.
·         67% had been physically abused by their intimate partner.
·         89% of femicide victims who had been physically assaulted had also been stalked in the 12 months before their murder.
·         54% of femicide victims reported stalking to police before they were killed by their stalkers.

So what can you do?
In Missouri, stalking is a crime. Keep detailed records of stalking incidents. Record keeping can make all the difference in prosecuting stalking cases and can legally help to differentiate between stalking and harassment. Stalking is not just a one-time event—it’s an accumulation of events. Other things to consider:

·         Try to make sure you have witnesses and keep track of who they are.
·         Make a safety plan to help reduce your risk of harm.
·         Consider your online visibility and decide if you need to make changes to be more private.
·         Give pictures of the stalker to security and friends at work/school/etc.
·         Tell your supervisors—they have a responsibility to keep you safe at work.
·         File police reports as incidents happen.

Stalking is a serious offense and can escalate into violence. If you think you’re in immediate danger call 911 or the National Stalking Resource Center hotline: 1-800-FYI-CALL.

For more information and tools, please visit