Last month was National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month as awareness was being raised among teens and the surrounding community about the signs, as well as to discourage this type of violence. Statistics show that one in three teens will experience dating violence and more than two-thirds never come forward and tell anyone. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), teen dating violence is a serious public health problem that is growing in the United States. The CDC also reports that one in four adolescents individually report verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse from a dating partner each year. Additionally, 10 percent of students nationwide report being physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past 12 months. Research has shown that dating or intimate partner violence can lead to serious injuries for its victims, poorer mental and physical health, more “high risk” or deviant behavior, and increased school avoidance for youth or young adults. Dating violence is associated with higher levels of depression, suicidal thoughts, and poorer educational outcomes. Some factors include environmental and social risk factors, i.e. family, education, environment, peer influence, exposure to parental violence, community violence, alcohol or substance abuse, and even gender equity.
There have been fewer and fewer reports around teen dating violence, but this does not mean its not happening. Some states have cut funding towards youth violence prevention programs because of this. However, its in the silence that more and more teens are falling victims to dating violence. As peer pressure is a major factor, many more teens have avoided reporting to avoid further conflict. Young teens experimenting in relationships do not fully understand that controlling behaviors and extreme jealousy are warning signs. Even social media outlets have been a major source of extreme violence and has become the foreground for abuse in young relationships. This can lead to skewed views of healthy relationships and can put our young people at major risk for continued violence. What needs to be done to raise awareness in our communities and among society’s teens?
To reduce the risk of dating violence victimization, the healthcare community needs to implement more evidence-based youth dating violence and sexual assault prevention programs in schools and the community to reach the adolescent target audience. It may also be helpful to target marital and parenting programs to reduce the incidence of parental violence as this can also be a direct factor. This can be an essential step in the development of a comprehensive public health prevention initiative to end teen dating violence as behaviors are molded in the home. Clinicians also need to participate and contribute to this effort in order to construct the consistent and effective prevention techniques needed to decrease violence in the home/community, stigma involved around communication, increase communication skills, and protect the health of high risk adolescents. Empowering people to have the ability to feel safe in a relationship and share this knowledge is vital for developing future relationships, both romantically and casually.
Ignoring this vicious problem will never make it go away. The only way to relieve this is to tackle it head-on. Any type of violence is abuse, regardless of whether its male or female perpetrated. We need to set an example and raise awareness if we want to see healthy relationships for future generations.