February is National Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month and it is critical to remember that domestic violence is not just a problem for adults. Teen dating violence rates exceed other types of youth violence. One in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth.
Recognizing abuse in a relationship can be difficult, especially for teens. There are many types of abuse that young people may believe are normal in a relationship. Even though teen relationships may be different from adult relationships, teens can experience the same types of abuse. Teens also face unique obstacles if they decide to get help. They may not have money, transportation or a safe place to go. They may also have concerns about confidentiality with many adults obligated to make reports to police, parents and child protective services.
SHARE, Inc., Help for Abused Partners, and New Directions are domestic violence programs that serve a six-county area in Northeast Colorado. These programs provide information, education, prevention, and intervention to help end dating violence through educational workshops in schools, direct assistance for victims, and activities that help young people develop healthier relationships and change attitudes that support violence. Domestic abuse intervention programs oppose the use of violence and emotional abuse as a means of control, support equality in relationships, and, most importantly, ensure confidentiality to all individuals who come to them for information and assistance.
Some of the warning signs of teen dating abuse are:
For parents – your teen:
- Apologizes and makes excuses for her partner’s behavior.
- Stops seeing friends and family members and becomes more and more isolated.
- Casually mentions the partner’s violent behavior, but laughs it off as a joke.
- Often has unexplained injuries or the explanations don’t make sense.
- Calls your teen names and puts her down in front of others.
- Acts extremely jealous of others who pay attention to your teen.
- Blames his behavior on alcohol, drugs, or other people.
- Thinks or tells your teen that you, the parents, don’t like him.
- Controls your teen’s behavior, checking up constantly, calling or texting and demanding to know who she’s been with.
- Are you being told by your friends or family that they are worried about your safety?
- Do you think if you could just change your behavior, things will get better?
- Does your partner call you names, belittle you or physically hurt you?
- Are you feeling pressured to spend less and less time with your friends?
- Are you lying to others to cover up for your partner’s violence?
- Are you making excuses for his behavior?
- Are you afraid of what will happen if you end the relationship?
Other resources include National Teen Dating Abuse 24-hour Helpline, 1-866-331-9474; Break the Cycle at www.breakthecycle.org; Love is Respect at www.loveisrespect.org; and SHARE, Inc. at www.sharemorgancounty.org.
For more information call SHARE, Inc. in Fort Morgan at 970.867.4444; Help for Abused Partners in Sterling at 970.522.2307; New Directions in Yuma at 970.630.8161; or toll free throughout Northeast Colorado 1.877.867.9590. Services are available at all three locations in English and Spanish.