February is teen dating violence awareness month because young-adult dating violence is a big problem, affecting youth in every community across the nation. Grand County is no exception. Learn the facts below.
• Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.
• One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.
• One in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
• One-quarter of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse.
Why Focus on Young People?
• Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence - almost triple the national average.
• Violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18.
• The severity of intimate partner violence is often greater in cases where the pattern of abuse was established in adolescence.
• About 72 percent of eighth and ninth graders are "dating."
• 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 a sexually transmitted infection.
• 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 5.4 percent of non-abused boys.
Lack of Awareness
• Only 33 percent of teens who were in a violent relationship ever told anyone about the abuse.
• Eighty-one percent of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don't know if it's an issue.
• A teen's confusion about the law and their desire for confidentiality are two of the most significant barriers stopping young victims of abuse from seeking help.
What Do I Need to Know?
Knowing that your son or daughter is in an unhealthy relationship can be both frustrating and frightening. But as a parent, you're critical in helping your child develop healthy relationships and can provide life-saving support if they're in an abusive relationship. Remember, dating violence occurs in both same-sex and opposite-sex couples and either gender can be abusive.
You can look for some early warning signs of abuse that can help you identify if your child is in an abusive relationship before it's too late. Some of these signs include:
• Your child's partner is extremely jealous or possessive.
• You notice unexplained marks or bruises.
• Your child's partner emails or texts excessively.
• You notice that your child is depressed or anxious.
• Your child stops participating in extracurricular activities or other interests.
• Your child stops spending time with other friends and family.
• Your child's partner abuses other people or animals.
What Can I Do?
• Tell your child you're concerned for their safety. Point out that what's happening isn't "normal." Everyone deserves a safe and healthy relationship. Offer to connect your son or daughter with an advocate, who they can talk to confidentially.
• Be supportive and understanding. Stress that you're on their side. Provide information and non-judgmental support. Let your son or daughter know that it's not their fault and no one "deserves" to be abused. Make it clear that you don't blame them and you respect their choices.
• Believe them and take them seriously. Your child may be reluctant to share their experiences in fear of no one believing what they say. As you validate their feelings and show your support, they can become more comfortable and trust you with more information. Be careful not to minimize your child's situation due to age, inexperience or the length of their relationship.
• Help develop a safety plan. One of the most dangerous times in an abusive relationship is when the victim decides to leave. Be especially supportive during this time and try to connect your child to support groups or professionals that can help keep them safe.
• Remember that ultimately your child must be the one who decides to leave the relationship. There are many complex reasons why victims stay in unhealthy relationships. Your support can make a critical difference in helping your son or daughter find their own way to end their unhealthy relationship.
For more information or support contact Advocates for a Violence-Free Community:
(970)725-3442 or gcadvocates.org