The Many & Way-Too-Frequent Forms of Dating Abuse
The Short- & Long-Term Effects of Abuse Often Go Untreated
by Desmond Homann
Like any form of intimate partner violence in general, such as domestic violence, dating abuse is characterized, but not limited to, physical violence, sexual violence, emotional violence, and stalking. Teen dating violence can happen to anyone regardless of race, gender sexual orientation, or other background factors. It should be noted that dating violence does not just take place in person, but can also be digital. Digital violence, which sometimes overlaps stalking, includes behaviors such as repeated messaging, monitoring the victim’s location, or demanding and sharing sexual images of the victim.
Although teen dating violence and adult domestic violence can be very similar and having many of the same warning signs, it can be very difficult for teens and young adults to differentiate between healthy, unhealthy, and abusive behaviors in a relationship. Each relationship is entirely unique, and it is important to have a solid understanding of the warning signs of these unhealthy and abusive behaviors from a young age. For these reasons, education is the first step in preventing teen dating violence.
Over time, more has become known about power-based and intimate partner violence, but not enough is known about how this violence impacts children and teens. It is know, however, that violence experienced at a young age continues to affect survivors throughout the rest of their lives. According to the CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, the majority of people who are victims this violence experience it before the age of 25.
Unfortunately, many adults, especially parents, are unaware of teen dating violence when it occurs. Many teens do not reach out or report dating violence because of shame and embarrassment, fear of the reactions of friends and family members, fear of a violent response from the abuser, a distrust of law enforcement, or multiple other reasons. This can result in short and long term effects going unnoticed and untreated, therefore following survivors long into adulthood. Individuals who experience dating violence in high school are also at a much higher risk of victimization while in college, so unnoticed violence experienced at a young age can be extremely dangerous.
For parents of teens and children, preventing dating violence can be through exposing children to healthy communication and relationships, having open and comfortable communication between parents and children, and teaching children from a young age about healthy communication, healthy expression of emotions, consent, and respect. it is never to early for a child to learn to respect and communicate with others.
Similar steps can be taken by other adults in a teen or child’s life, whether this adult is another family member, a teacher, or any other person close to the child. When adults have healthy relationships and healthy behaviors themselves, the children who are around them are exposed to these relationships and behaviors, which normalizes them and provides the children with an understanding of what good relationships look like. When children have this strong understanding early on, it provides a foundation that makes it easier to identify unhealthy behaviors and take care of them promptly. In addition, having healthy communication between adults and children reduces the fear of speaking out about or reporting dating violence if it occurs.
To minimize and eventually try to eliminate dating abuse, it is crucial to work towards education and prevention. This education and prevention must start early in order to provide children and teens with a good foundation and an understanding of healthy communication and relationships. The purpose of having Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month is to raise awareness about dating violence, to provide resources to those who may be experiencing dating violence, and to encourage others to take action to help with the prevention of dating violence.