Teen dating violence is everyone’s problem
By Dana Davis, LPC
Teen dating violence has impacted adolescents for many years and unfortunately it is an issue that is not talked about until a situation gets so violent or aggressive that it comes to the attention of adults. Teens in abusive relationships often feel as though they have no one to talk to since adults are less likely to take the teen’s relationship seriously. There can be pressure to be in a relationship, so they might develop an any relationship will do mentality. Adolescents can go through a time of feeling insecure about themselves which may also make them susceptible to abusive relationships.
When addressing a violent teen relationship, efforts are largely focused on the victim. Some people will try to convince the victim to get out of the relationship, while others help them rationalize a reason to stay and many simply think “why don’t they just leave.” Studies show there are many reasons victims stay in abusive relationships. They stay because they love their partner, the abuser makes promises to stop being aggressive, they feel guilty and have low self-esteem or they believe they can change the abuser’s behaviors. Some warning signs that someone may be in an abusive relationship include:
- Constantly changing plans
- Always worrying about making their partner angry
- Gives up things that are important
- Isolate themselves from friends and family
Offering help to the abuser is not as common due primarily to feelings of fear or intimidation. The often overlooked abuser also needs help to change their abusive ways. Abuse is about power and control and is a choice. Some warning signs that someone may be the abuser in a relationship are:
- Insults their partner in public
- Acts jealous
- Checks on their partner constantly
- Breaks or hits things in order to intimidate their partner
When making a decision to try to take action, people often think “It’s none of my business” or feel that someone else will step in and do something to help. However, teen dating violence is everyone’s problem. The fact is that taking action is imperative for the safety of the victim and it can minimize the long term effects on society. A victim can become addicted to drugs, depressed and have suicidal thoughts. They may develop eating disorders or other medical issues and become unable to succeed in school or work. Victims may also develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These issues can affect the victim, their family and others who attempt to have relationships with them in the future.
Helping the abuser is an important aspect of breaking the cycle of abuse. When attempting to help the abuser, one must first assess the safety issue. If it is safe to intervene, praising and recognizing good behavior is a great place to start. Also, helping the abuser clarify their feelings and encouraging them to seek the support of a therapist should be a top priority.
When working with teens and dating violence, awareness is the key. Making parents and school personnel aware that it is an issue that many of our youth face is imperative for future prevention. Creating an atmosphere in schools and homes where teens feel they have a safe place to share concerns and feel they will be taken seriously is important to ending the cycle of abuse.
Since adolescents spend much of their time at school and often interact freely with their significant other while on campus, the Texas State Legislature passed House Bill 121. This Bill requires each school district to adopt and implement a dating violence policy to be included in its district improvement plan. At this time, many school districts in the San Antonio area are developing plans to protect the victim and have consequences for the perpetrator.
Originally featured on the MySA.com Health Channel.