Dating violence: Teen-agers at risk
Dating violence or battering is a repeated pattern of actual or threatened acts that emotionally, verbally, physically or sexually hurt another person. In a violent dating relationship, one person is afraid of and intimidated by the other. This includes threats, intimidation, humiliation, name calling, the silent treatment, vicious criticizing, destroying or defacing valued objects, sabotaging successes or advancement and/or demeaning one’s achievements.
These behaviors are unnecessary, inappropriate and sometimes illegal. As time passes, they will destroy the quality of the relationship and kill any idea of happiness and satisfaction within.
Although teen-dating violence is not a new problem, it has only recently been recognized and identified. It is both a silent and hidden crime that crosses all economic, racial, age, religious and class barriers. Dating violence is most often part of a pattern of behavior that begins with verbal and emotional abuse and eventually escalates into physical battering.
The majority of teen-agers do not recognize or define the violence as being destructive or a problem in the relationship. Also, fear of being different by not having a boyfriend or girlfriend, pressure from the peer group and group norms can mistakenly create the idea that any relationship is better than no relationship.
Dating is a part of growing up that allows young people to discover facts about themselves and how they relate to others. In trying to achieve independence, they experiment and take risks, often thinking “this won’t happen to me.” They hesitate to ask questions, ask for advise or help, especially from parents. The general feeling is that they can or want to handle the problems themselves.
Teens often feel they have no protection by coming forward and talking about the abuse. Domestic violence programs are limited in the services they can provide to teens. Parents and teens need to keep the line of communication open. By increasing the awareness, teens and parents can take steps to prevent violence and end abusive relationships safely.
The Family Support Council of Douglas County has experienced caseworkers available to anyone who needs assistance and advocacy. We can set forth steps for a teen safety plan, to recognize that “I’m sorry I hit you,” “I didn’t mean it” or that flowers don’t make the hurt go away. A 24-hour crisis line is also available.
If you, as a teen-ager, find yourself in an abusive relationship, please remember to reach out for help before it’s too late.
– Judy Walsh is a family case manager/domestic violence caseworker at the Family Support Council, 782-8692. She referred to information from Advocates to End Domestic Violence and the Domestic Violence Coalition to write this column.