February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. This month, there is a long-term push for advocacy and education to stop teen dating abuse. According to the CDC, Teen Dating Violence is defined as intimate partner violence that can consist of physical violence, sexual violence, aggression, and stalking.
In the U.S. millions of teens are victims of partner abuse every year. Over the course of a year, high school students reported that 1 in 14 females and 1 in 11 males experienced physical dating violence, and 1 in 8 females and 1 in 26 males experienced sexual dating violence. Additionally, 26% of women and 15% of men who have been the victim of abuse from an intimate partner report their first experience occurred before age 18.
Teen Dating Violence vs. Domestic Violence
Much like teen dating violence, perpetrators of domestic violence know their victims intimately well. Abuse in these relationships can take different forms, including physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, and financial abuse. The difference between domestic violence and teen dating violence is that teen dating violence only occurs between adolescents in a romantic partnership, whereas domestic violence can occur in any relationship. Additionally, domestic violence also affects more people than teen dating violence, including family members, ex-spouses, cohabitants, and friends.
Victims of domestic violence and teen dating violence are both susceptible to falling into a pattern of violence in relationships, and unhealthy coping skills. Teenage victims of dating abuse are especially at risk of repeat abuse when they go to college and lifelong victimization.
Characteristics of Healthy & Unhealthy Relationships
So, how can one develop the characteristics of a healthy, happy relationship? What are the red and green flags should you look out for in relationships?
Relationship Green Flags:
- Trust: Partners should be able to trust each other and provide each other the benefit of the doubt.
- Honesty: In order to build trust in a relationship, honesty is essential.
- Communication: Both partners should work to speak honestly and truthfully to each other. Effective communicators provide a safe, comfortable space for both partners to express their emotions without fear of retaliation.
- Understanding: Both partners should work to spend some time recognizing each other’s needs, wants, and emotions. Quality time together is great for getting to know a partner but it’s also okay to spend some time apart. Personal time away from the relationship allows one to hit the reset button and reflect on the relationship and its challenges objectively.
- Support: In a healthy relationship, both partners should be supportive of each other emotionally, socially, and financially. Financial support does not mean partners need to fund each other’s lifestyles or make the same amount of money, but as a leading cause of stress in relationships, it is important to establish a healthy, respectful, and compatible dynamic around finances.
- Equality: A relationship is a give and take. Take turns, respect each other’s differences, and work on a balance.
Relationship Red Flags:
- Control: One partner makes all the decisions for the other; They tell them what to do, who they can spend time with, when to come home, what to wear, etc. They may attempt to isolate themselves from friends and family as well, to strengthen their influence.
- Dishonesty: A partner that constantly tells little white lies, is overly grandiose, manipulates the truth, or holds back important information.
- Disrespect: A partner may not respect the other’s boundaries, frequently criticizes the other, or uses backhanded jokes to subtly demean them.
- Hostility: Constant arguments, aggressive comments, and irrational, upsetting behavior aimed to provoke conflict or elicit attention from the other person.
- Physical Violence: Physical violence, threatening and non-threatening, such as hitting, slapping, grabbing, and shoving.
- Sexual Violence: One partner may force the other into sexual activity without consent and ask for sexual acts that the other is uncomfortable with.
It is important to educate oneself on teen dating violence, domestic violence, and healthy and unhealthy relationship characteristics before one settles into a relationship or begins dating.
If you are a survivor of teen dating violence or know of others, please reach out for help. Call 911 or National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233), if you need immediate care. Individual therapy, group therapy, and ongoing support groups can also help.
Written By: Khadija Manzoor, LPC
At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff who specialize in therapy and psychiatry services. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic at (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.