Published Thursday, February 13, 2014
By Kaylyn S. Jones
Teen dating shouldn’t hurt.
Building romantic relationships for the first time can be exciting, but in some cases it isn’t. One of every three U.S. teenagers are emotionally, verbally, physically, or sexually abused by a partner and there are about 1.5 million high school students nationwide who experience physical abuse by their partner every year.
Statistics show that female teens face relationship violence three times more often that the average adult women and over the past few years violence has increased. February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
Talking to teenagers about healthy relationships is an important step in order to prevent abuse.
“The best thing for you to do is to get them some type of help or assistance, support them, believe what they are saying and help them understand that there is nothing they’ve done to deserve the treatment,” said Jessica, a counselor at Baraboo, Wisconsin based Hope House, a teen dating abuse hotline. “It is not their fault.”
Hope house offers programs for youth who have dealt with or currently dealing with abuse, including support groups and individual counseling. It also conducts awareness campaigns and school presentations.
Teenagers are exposed to sexual abuse at a young age, says Jessica, the Hope House counselor. They are sometimes pressured to engage in sexual activities before they are ready to do so, which takes an emotional toll and can affect the way victims look at relationships as adults. It can create trust issues that could prevent healthy relationships.
“This is never OK,” said Libby Safrait, executive director at Teen Health Connection in Charlotte. “During adolescent years teens are developing and learning how to be intimate and how to develop relationships with others.”
According to Beth, an advocate at Hope House, abuse is prevalent because of “our culture and the cycle of violence.”
Characteristics of dating abuse:
-Partner who is easily annoyed, suspicious and always accusing
-Excessive drinking and drug usage could possibly be characteristics of abusers along with breaking and smashing objects when upset.
-Low opinion of the opposite sex
– Excessive demands of time and attention
– Partner is difficult to please
“Not to say that if a person would have one or two of these characteristics would automatically make them an abuser,” said Beth, an advocate at Hope House.
Domestic violence hotline