February is Teen Dating Awareness Month, and Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin asks that teens remember that love is more than romance: Love is Respect. This month, Attorney General Kilmartin is working to promote the Love Is Respect campaign, a collaboration between Break the Cycle and the National Dating Abuse Helpline that promotes teen dating violence awareness. Teen dating violence knows no bounds, nor does it discriminate; it can be found in all communities and demographics. Physical, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse affects countless teens and young adults, and one in five female high school students report having been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner, according to a report published in the AMA journal. This problem is only compounded by the fact that many parents believe teen dating violence isn't an issue, or admit they don't know if it's an issue. However, 54% of parents who do believe it is an issue admit they haven't spoken to their child about dating problems. "Without direct action, teen dating violence will continue to expand amongst youth who, in many cases, don't know any better. Without proper communication and education, a young person may not be able to find a way to share their problems, and are often isolated from people they once trusted by their abusive partner," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "If teens don't have a strong support network, they can find themselves trapped in an abusive relationship with no way out. It is crucial for parents and teens to discuss dating violence with one another. It's apparent that this is not a small problem, nor is it going away – in fact, the victims of dating abuse are becoming younger and younger." According to a survey commissioned by the Empower Program, nearly 25% of 14-17 year-olds know at least one peer who was a victim of dating violence, while 57% of teens know someone who has been physically, emotionally, verbally, or sexually abusive in a dating relationship. For the most part, victims feel the need to keep quiet about their abuse, and only 33% of teens who were in an abusive relationship told someone about the abuse. Violent relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications for victims; many will continue to be abused in their adult relationships and are at a higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and suicide. The best step a community can take is to address abuse amongst youth and teach teens the right thing to do. Patterns of dating violence often start early and carry through into adult relationships, and the severity of violence among dating partners has been shown to increase if the pattern has been established in adolescence. "This problem needs to be addressed now. When an abusive relationship is allowed to continue, the violence is bound to get worse, not better," stated Kilmartin. "The Love Is Respect campaign is a great resource for parents and kids to learn how to identify and stop teen dating violence." What Is Teen Dating Violence? Teen dating violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner.
What Does Dating Violence Look Like? Teens and young adults experience the same types of abuse in relationships as adults do. This can include:
- Physical abuse: any intentional use of physical force with the intent to cause fear or injury, like hitting, shoving, biting, strangling, kicking or using a weapon - Verbal or emotional abuse: non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking - Sexual abuse: any action that impacts a person's ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs, including rape, coercion or restricting access to birth control - Digital abuse: use of technologies and/or social media networking to intimidate, harass, or threaten a current or ex-dating partner. This could include demanding passwords, checking cell phones, cyber bullying, sexting, excessive or threatening texts or stalking on Facebook or other social media.
What Are the Warning Signs of Abuse? While there are many warning signs of abuse, here are ten of the most common abusive behaviors:
- Checking your cell phone or email without permission - Constantly putting you down - Extreme jealousy or insecurity - Explosive temper - Isolating you from family or friends - Mood swings - Physically hurting you in any way - Possessiveness - Being possessive - Telling you what to do
The Real Story - The abuse is never the victim's fault. It is important to remember that nothing a victim does invites or excuses abuse. - Telling someone to "just leave" the relationship is not the answer. Without understanding the obstacles a young person may face and helping him or her through a safe separation, the situation usually gets worse, not better. - Take relationships among youth seriously. Abuse among youth can be just as destructive as among adults, if not more so. - Dating violence happens in every type of relationship, in every community. Anyone can become part of an unhealthy relationship and no one has a predisposition to becoming a victim of abuse. - Dating violence isn't just physical. Emotional and sexual violence can be just as, if not more, devastating to a young person's health than physical violence. - Do not advise teens to fight back. When a victim violently lashes out against his or her abuser, the violence often escalates. - There's never a point where you should "cut off" a friend who is being abused. Without a supportive community, the victim finds it harder to leave the unhealthy relationship.
How to Get Help If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.
Local Resources Victims of Crime Helpline 24 hour Hotline 1-800-494-8100
Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence www.ricadv.org
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 866-331-9474 866-331-8453 TTY www.loveisrespect.org The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline offers one?on?one service from peer advocates. The helpline operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and offers translation services. Assistance via online chat services is available four p.m. to midnight CST, 7 days a week.
National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-SAFE (7233) 800-787-3224 TTY www.ndvh.org The National Domestic Violence Hotline, operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, offers services in more than 170 languages. The hotline provides crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) Hotline 800-656-HOPE (4673) www.rainn.org The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network offers assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Callers are automatically directed to on-duty volunteers to answer questions and provide support and local resources.
Break the Cycle www.breakthecycle.org
National Center for Victims of Crime - Dating Violence Resource Center www.ncvc.org