February was Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, but let’s not stop spreading awareness just because calendar turned . According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov), teen dating violence affects millions of young people in the United States.
Last month, I wrote about Provo Police Department’s Victim Services’ push to spread awareness about this problem. Later, I received some comments from people about how surprised they were about the problem’s prevalence. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, of the high school students who reported dating during the year prior to the survey, about 1 in 12 experienced physical dating violence and 1 in 12 experienced sexual dating violence. Female students experienced higher rates, as did LGBTQ students.
How can parents, teachers and other caregivers help our youth understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships? According to http://Youth.gov, healthy relationships include mutual respect, trust, honesty, compromise, individuality, good communication, anger control, problem solving, understanding, self-confidence and fighting fair. When people are fighting fair, they stick to the subject, avoid insults and take breaks from each other if things get too heated.
Unhealthy relationships include control — one partner making all of the decisions and telling the other what to do. This comes along with hostility, dishonesty, disrespect, dependence, physical violence, sexual violence and intimidation. When intimidation is part of a relationship, one partner tries to control aspects of the other partner’s life by causing fear or timidity or keeping the partner from friends or family members.
In the past, we didn’t hear much about teen dating violence. It wasn’t until 2006 that the first National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Week was held. This nationwide initiative was designed to increase public awareness and education about this important topic. In 2010, February was designated as Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month by the U.S. Senate.
In 2018, I interviewed Andi Tremonte, then-Education and Outreach Coordinator for Utah Domestic Violence Coalition. She said, “When youth do experience dating violence, it can be minimized as ‘teen issues.’ People shrug it off and say things such as, ‘You just don’t understand what a real relationship is,’ or ‘You’re young.’”
In an effort to ensure that teen dating violence is no longer “shrugged off,” we need to continue to spread awareness throughout the year, not just during February. Talking to youth often about healthy and unhealthy relationships, watching for warning signs such as extreme jealousy or possessiveness from a partner, constant emails, texts or calls from a partner, isolation from other friends and family, someone that is disliked by a partner’s friends and abuse to other people or animals, and seeking help when needed can all help to decrease or stop the problem.
Help can be found 24 hours a day by calling 800-799-7233. Utah Domestic Violence Coalition’s website has many resources at udvc.org or by calling 1-800-897-LINK (5465.) Local police departments can be contacted anonymously and police victim advocates will offer resources. Help can also be found at http://TheRefugeUtah.org or by calling 801-377-5500.