Valentine’s Day is considered a day of love. In healthy relationships this is true. In relationships that include violence, it may just be another day of abuse. Physical, emotional, sexual abuse can start at young ages. Stalking may also be part of the victimization. If children are raised in abusive homes they may become an abuser or a victim when they get older.
Domestic violence is a serious problem in our society and teens are experiencing unhealthy relationships when dating. When domestic violence results in murder or murder/suicide, the couple may have begun the relationship in middle or high school. If an abuser says that the violence will stop if the couple marry, that is a myth. In fact, the abuser now has more control over the victim.
If parents project a healthy relationship the teens have a goal to work toward. The sad truth is that many teens have not seen a healthy relationship and may think that being abused is normal. A teen who was raised in a home in which the parents respected each other may still fall prey to an abuser. Teen abusers can be just as manipulative and violent as adults.
I remember a call from a father who was astonished that his son was dating an abusive female teen. That behavior was foreign to the father as violence did not go on in their household. He could not understand why his son, who had been raised to be respectful in relationships, could accept the abuse, which was physical and emotional.
Teen years can be difficult and if a teen has a poor self-image or feels unworthy, she/he can be targeted by an abuser who is looking for someone to dominate and control.
The CDC has named dating violence a public health problem. The Understanding Teen Dating Violence Fact Sheet reports that among high school students who dated, 21% of females and 10% of males experienced physical and/or sexual dating violence.
Among adult victims of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, 22% of women and 15% of men first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age.
I have been in schools to talk about healthy and unhealthy relationships and observed teens who were likely abusers or victims. During the discussion their views on relationships were already formed and many were not open to considering other options.
Abuse in any form at any age is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. The CDC fact sheet includes information on how dating violence affects your health and it can have a negative effect throughout your life.
Parents talk to your children about healthy relationships. Teens talk to your parents if you are being or have been victimized in a dating relationship. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a parent, please contact:
loveisrespect.org 1 866-331-9474 text loveis to 22522