October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Now is a good time to talk to teens about dating violence.

October is a time of cooler evenings, vibrant color changes, football games and school dances. October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month and is a good time to talk to kids about what dating violence is and how they can keep themselves safe in romantic relationships.

Teen dating violence is a type of intimate partner violence (IPV). It is a pattern that occurs between two people in a close relationship and it can involve abusive behaviors that are physical, emotional or sexual. Dating violence can happen in person or electronically – such as through repeated texting or what some call “batter chatter” – or by posting sexual pictures online. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dating violence often starts as mean-spirited “teasing” and name-calling and can be seen as “normal” parts of relationships. Too often this unhealthy pattern escalates and can lead to physical or sexual assault.

Exploring and learning about romantic relationships is an important part of adolescence and healthy youth development. Too often these interactions cross the line into unhealthy and even violent relationships – particularly for young people between the ages of 16 and 24.

Teen dating abuse is a public health concern with serious consequences. For example, teens who are victims of dating abuse are more likely to be depressed, have eating disorders and do poorly in school. A new study indicates that dating violence in adolescence can also lead to financial harm and lowered economic status in adulthood for women.

Because patterns of unhealthy relationships and dating violence tend to start early in life, you can help teens who are beginning to enter romantic relationships learn about dating and domestic violence by talking and listening to them and asking questions:

Does your romantic partner…..

  • Try to control you by telling you what to wear, say or do?
  • Tell you who you can hang out with or be friends with?
  • Call you names and embarrass you in front of others?
  • Tell you not to spend time with your family?
  • Use anger as a way to scare and control you?
  • Pressure you or force you to engage in sexual acts against your will?
  • Try to shame you, damage your self-worth, criticize you or call you names?
  • Push, pinch or shove you or use any form of physical violence to get you to do things?
  • Follow you, stalk you or monitor your computer or phone use?
  • Tell you nobody else will want you as a way to force you to stay in relationship?
  • Make you feel like it’s your fault that the relationship is difficult?

Prevention programs help to change attitudes that put kids at risk for intimate partner violence and research shows that young people benefit from conversations about dating violence. Michigan State University Extension offers educational programs that help adults engage young people in learning about healthy relationships, as well as teen dating violence, bullying and other barriers to the healthy development of young people.

If you’re concerned about yourself or someone you care about, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224. For Michigan specific resources, visit the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence.

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