Love is Respect: February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month
Written by: Kaleigh Bronson-Cook, Awareness & Prevention Director CCS
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. 1 in 3 teens in the U.S. is a victim of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse from a dating partner. Of these teens who have experienced dating violence, only 33% ever tell anyone or report what has happened to them. By raising awareness about Teen Dating Violence, the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships and working to prevent violence in our community, we can ensure that teens are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to live healthy, happy, violence-free lives.
Q: What is teen dating violence?
A: The CDC outlines Teen Dating Violence as a form of intimate partner violence that can manifest physically, sexually, psychologically and as stalking. This can happen both in person and electronically. Sometimes, Teen Dating Violence may be understood or thought to be bullying or cyberbullying.
Q: How often does teen dating violence occur?
A: Unfortunately, Teen Dating Violence is incredibly common. The CDC reports that it affects millions of teens in the U.S. each year. Nearly 1 in 11 female and approximately 1 in 15 male high school students report having experienced physical dating violence in the last year. About 1 in 9 female and 1 in 36 male high school students report having experienced sexual dating violence in the last year. It is important to know that teen dating violence does not impact everyone equally; members of the LGBTQIA+ community and other minority groups are disproportionately affected by all forms of violence including teen dating violence.
Q: What does dating violence look like? What are some warning signs I’m in an unhealthy or abusive relationship?
A: Dating violence can manifest itself in many different ways. Unhealthy relationships are based on power and control. Any action that is intended to demonstrate power and control over another person is an abusive action. Every person has the right to feel safe and respected in their relationships. If you don’t, your relationship may be unhealthy. The organization One Love has outlined 10 common signs of unhealthy relationships as intensity, possessiveness, manipulation, isolation, sabotage, belittling, guilting, volatility, deflecting responsibility and betrayal. Some signs of unhealthy relationships can also include extreme jealousy, frequently keeping tabs/checking up on their partner, controlling what their partner can or cannot do, limiting their access to friends, family, money, birth control etc., threats, intimidation, name calling, sexual coercion or pressure, gaslighting/minimizing abuse and controlling/monitoring social media or electronic communications. Every survivor’s experience is different but the common thread throughout them all is the element of power and control. It’s important to remember that even if warning signs present in a relationship, abuse is never the victim’s fault. You can take a quiz developed by Love is Respect to determine whether your relationship is healthy or not.
Q: What does a healthy relationship look like? How do I know if I’m in a healthy relationship?
A: First and foremost, you know you are in a healthy relationship if you feel safe and respected. Healthy relationships are based on equality meaning that no one person has more power, control or say in that relationship than the other person. Communication, respect, trust and honesty are all traits common in healthy relationships. Individuals in healthy relationships set and maintain healthy boundaries, practice consent and feel free to be themselves and act independently from their partner. You can learn more about healthy relationships from Love is Respect. You can also take a quiz to determine whether your relationship is healthy or not.
Q: Is Teen Dating Violence preventable?
A: Yes! As horrible as teen dating violence is, the good news is that it is preventable. We know that violence is a public health issue that can be addressed using primary prevention strategies. You can learn more about teen dating violence prevention from the CDC.
Q: How can I help a friend who is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship?
A: A common tactic used by abusers in dating relationships is to isolate their partner from their family, friends and other supportive people. This means that it is incredibly important that if someone you know is experiencing violence or abuse that they know that you are there for them no matter what.
If you suspect that your friend is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, feel free to talk to them about it in a safe and private way. Make sure that you have your conversation in a way that doesn’t make it more risky or dangerous for your friend. You can say “I’m worried about you”, “I’ve noticed some things in your relationship that are concerning” or “Do you feel safe with your partner?”. Have a conversation with them about your concerns and ask them what you can do to support them. Let your friend know that there is help available; you can give them the Canyon Creek Services hotline number (435-233-5732) or you can call or text the hotline with them to speak with an advocate about what is going on. You are also welcome to contact the hotline yourself to talk with an advocate about how you can best help your friend.
If someone comes to you and shares that they have experienced violence or abuse, always start by believing them. Never question their story; believe it without judgement or blaming them. Remember that the abuse is never the survivor’s fault, no matter what. Listen to what they have to say. Validate their feelings and let them know they are not alone. Let them know there is help available; go to a teacher, counselor, parent or call/text the Canyon Creek Services hotline at 435-233-5732.
Q: I’m a parent. How do I help my teen navigate relationships?
A: Parents are critical in helping their children develop healthy relationship skills. Many resources exist for parents on how to talk with their teens about relationships and help them navigate dating relationships. Canyon Creek Services has compiled a public Google Drive folder for parents with information and resources about teen dating violence and healthy relationships. You can also find more information in this Parent Handbook from Break the Cycle. If you have questions or would like additional resources, please contact email@example.com. Additional resources from Love is Respect are also available for if you suspect or know that your child is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship. You can also contact the Canyon Creek Services 24-hour hotline to speak with an advocate and get support if you are concerned about your child’s relationship at 435-233-5732. Canyon Creek Services has Child & Youth Advocates available to support you and your child.
Q: I’m not dating anyone. Do I still need to worry about abuse/violence?
A: It is important to develop healthy relationship skills even if you aren’t dating anyone. Every person has the right to feel safe and respected in their relationships with others. It is your responsibility to ensure that you do your part to make the people around you feel safe including your friends, family members and others. Learn how you can develop healthy relationships here.
Q: I’m scared to tell anyone what my dating partner is doing because I don’t want them to get in trouble. What do I do?
A: It is completely your choice if you want to reach out to someone for support if you are in an unhealthy relationship. You do not have to tell anyone if you don’t want to. If you are in need of support, feel free to reach out to a trusted friend or adult but understand that you may not be able to control who they share your story with. You can get help anonymously from Canyon Creek Services at 435-233-5732 through call or text or from .loveisrespect.org through call, text or chat. You have the right to end a relationship that is not right or healthy for you. Here is some information about how to end unhealthy relationships.
Q: I’m under 18 and legally not an adult. Will Canyon Creek Services tell my guardians, teachers, or the police what is happening if I contact CCS for help?
A: The State of Utah requires all adults who become aware of harm happening to minors or vulnerable adults to report what information they have to the authorities. However, you have the right to access support regardless of your age and are welcome to reach out to us anonymously. We are here for you. Call or text our 24-hour hotline at 435-233-5732 and an advocate can talk with you about how we can help as well as our reporting requirements. You can also talk with an advocate anonymously at loveisrespect.org through call, text or online chat.
Canyon Creek Services (CCS) provides free and confidential services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Iron, Beaver and Garfield counties. Services include emergency shelter, crisis intervention, information and referral, court and medical advocacy, mental health services, housing advocacy, safety planning and more. Help is available via the 24 hour hotline 435-233-5732 (call or text). CCS also provides awareness, education and prevention services in order to achieve our vision of “Communities Free of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.” For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org