Every February, people across the United States join together for a national effort to bring awareness to teen dating violence. Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM) is a month-long campaign dedicated to raising awareness about teen dating abuse. By coming together each February, we can raise awareness and stop dating abuse before it starts. Only by continuing to talk about these difficult issues can we call attention to teen dating violence. TDVAM is a critical opportunity to let people know that teen dating violence is happening and that it can be prevented, but we must continue this important conversation all year.
Teen dating violence is more common than people think. One in three teens in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse by someone they are in a relationship with before they become adults.* Only 33% of teens who were in a violent relationship ever told anyone about the abuse. In Washburn County alone, 31 teens received services from Embrace in 2019.
So what can you do to help prevent teen dating abuse?
Knowing or even suspecting that your child or a teen you know is in an unhealthy relationship can be both frightening and frustrating. It can be hard to know what steps to take or even how to start the conversation. Teens still say that parents and teachers are key influencers in their decisions. In a recent website poll 25% of people who visited loveisrespect.com did so because a teacher referred them to it. You are critical in helping teens develop healthy relationships, and you can provide life-changing support if they are in an abusive relationship.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when trying to help:
- Listen and give support. It can be difficult to open up about abuse, and many teens fear that important adults in their lives will overreact, blame them, or be angry. Try to be supportive and non-accusatory. Ask how they want to be supported and how you can help.
- Accept what you’re being told. Showing skepticism or disbelief can make anyone feel unsupported and isolated. Believe them when they are brave enough to share their experience with you.
- Show concern. Try saying something like, “You don’t deserve to be treated like this, and I want you to know that this is not ‘normal’ relationship behavior. I am concerned for your safety, and I am here for you.”.
- Talk about the behaviors, not the person. Instead of saying, “Your partner is controlling, and I don’t like them,” you can say, “I don’t like that your partner texts you to see where you are so often. How do you feel when you get those back to back messages from them?”.
- Avoid ultimatums. Resist the urge to give ultimatums or punishment, like grounding them, giving them detention, or taking their phone away. This cuts them off from support, and they may be less likely to trust that you’re a safe person to talk to in the future.
- Be prepared. Educate yourself on dating abuse and what a healthy relationship looks like. Share articles with your teen and ask them for their thoughts. By being open and willing to learn yourself, you’re modeling good behavior.
- Decide on the next steps together. Ultimately, the decision about next steps will need to come from them, but you can still play a role in helping them identify safe options. Help them find additional support, like a counselor or an Embrace advocate. At any time, you can encourage your teen to call or text Embrace to receive professional advocacy services.
Remember, every day is an important day to spread awareness about teen dating violence,
but during TDVAM, it’s especially important to add your voice.
*Statistics provided by loveisrespect.org.
Embrace Services, Inc.: Embrace is the leading voice and comprehensive advocacy services provider for survivors of domestic and sexual violence in the four-county service area of Northwestern Wisconsin. At Embrace, we provide unwavering support to survivors. Through education and awareness, we engage our communities and create multi-disciplinary partnerships to increase safety and equity advancing our mission of ending gender-based violence. We strive to create a courageous social change that will end all forms of oppression in our communities. Everyone deserves healthy communities and the support to thrive.
We encourage reporters to include the following information in their stories for victims who need help: If you or someone you know is experiencing intimate partner violence or sexual assault, you are not alone! It is not your fault. Embrace is here to help. Contact Embrace for free, confidential advocacy and support at 1.800.924.0556 or text at 715.532.6976