February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Beaman Home’s DoVE Outreach Program Coordinator April Slone wants area parents to know that 2 out of 3 teens are experiencing teen dating abuse or violence.  Many teens don’t recognize the behaviors as abuse … and 81% of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue.
Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence … almost triple the national average. Among female victims of intimate partner violence, 95 percent of those age 16-19 and 70 percent E of those age 20-24 were victimized by a current or former boyfriend or girlfriend (yes, male teens experience dating violence).
It’s an issue not only in our high schools but also in our colleges. Nearly half (43 percent) of dating college women reported experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors. They don’t know how to deal with it … and they don’t know how to help someone who’s experiencing it. One in three (36 percent) of dating college students has given a dating partner their computer, email or social network passwords and these students are more likely to experience digital dating abuse. One in six (16 percent) have been sexually abused in a dating relationship.
Slone’s research and experience indicate that violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18. The severity of intimate partner violence in adulthood is often greater in cases where the pattern of abuse was established in adolescence.
Family discussion about teen dating abuse help teens understand the dangers of a violent relationship that can ruin lives, and in some cases, end lives. That’s why Beaman Home’s DoVE Outreach Program is working to share the knowledge of warning signs interventions and preventions of teen dating violence in our community.
Slone stresses, “It’s important for parents to understand that unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime. Teens often think some behaviors, like teasing, jealousy and name calling, are a “normal” part of a relationship. These behaviors, however, can become abusive and develop into more serious forms of violence.”
The effects are long-lasting. Violent relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications by putting the victims at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and further domestic violence. Being physically or sexually abused makes teen girls six times more likely to become pregnant and twice as likely to get sexually transmitted diseases. Scary, too, is that half of youth who have been victims of both dating violence and rape attempt suicide compared to 12.5 percent of non-abused girls and 4.5 percent of non-abused boys.
Slone adds, “Dating violence is widespread and results in serious long-term and short-term effects. Many teens don’t report it because they are afraid to tell friends and family.” As teens develop emotionally, they are heavily influenced by experiences in their relationships. Unhealthy, abusive or violent relationship behaviors result in victims experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, engagement in unhealthy behaviors like tobacco, drug or alcohol use, involvement in antisocial behaviors or thoughts of suicide. High school students experiencing violence in high school are at higher risk for victimization as they enter college.
Slone reminds parents that conversations (talking AND listening) are better than interrogations (shooting questions at them and expecting immediate answers).  She recommends:
•    Understand that teen dating violence is the physical, sexual, psychological or emotional violence within a dating relationship (including stalking). It can occur in person or electronically. It might occur from a current or former dating partner.
•    Talk to your children; let them know what dating violence is. Guide them to react and remove themselves from dangerous situations. Help them make healthier choices.
•    Help teens and young adults understand that communicating with their partner, managing uncomfortable emotions like anger and jealousy, and treating others with respect are ways to keep relationships healthy and non-violent.
•    Guide them to understand that messages they receive from peers, some adults and the media often suggest that violence in a relationship is normal…but violence is never acceptable!
Dating violence can be prevented when teens, families, organizations, and communities work together to implement effective prevention strategies. Beaman Home’s Slone provides essential educational tools to fight violence and abuse at all levels. To learn more or to schedule a group presentation or training, contact Slone at 574-703-0722.
The Beaman Home has been providing essential services to domestic violence victims in Kosciusko, Fulton, and Marshall Counties for over 30 years. In addition to direct services to victims, Beaman Home provides community education and outreach to ensure community members know the dangers and impact of family and dating violence. For more information about teen dating or other domestic violence abuse, contact The Beaman Home professionals toll free at 877-725-9363 or visit their website at www.thebeamanhome.com or Facebook (TheBeamanHome).