October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This year the LEAH program (Let’s End Abusive Households) of Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona is focusing on raising awareness about teen dating violence and abuse.
Teen dating violence can be physical, emotional, or sexual. Dating violence can take place in person or electronically, such as repeated texting or posting sexual pictures of a partner online, according to a fact sheet from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Teens often think some behaviors, like teasing, possessiveness, and name calling, are a “normal” part of a relationship. However, these behaviors can become abusive and develop into more serious forms of violence.
The following facts cited by the CDC demonstrate the prevalence of this issue in the adolescent world and the need for personal, family and community action. Left untreated these issues result in a perpetual cycle of abuse, unhealthy relationships and other health and emotional risk factors. Let’s help our children be aware of positive and healthy relationships and understand the respect, boundaries, sense of safety and love that they deserve.
Five facts about teen dating violence
1. At least 1 in 10 high school students has experienced physical violence from a dating partner in the past year.
2. 1 in 4 adolescents report verbal, emotional, physical or sexual dating violence each year.
3. 1 in 10 teens reported they had been kissed, touched, or physically forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to at least once by someone they were dating.
4. Among adult victims of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, 22% of women and 15% of men first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age.
5. Exposure to dating violence significantly affects a range of short term and long term mental and physical health problems.
Five traits of healthy relationships
1. Both partners maintain respect, equality and love.
2. Mutual individuality — Neither partner should have to compromise who they are, and their identity should not be based on the other partner’s.
3. Nonviolent communication — Each partner should feel safe to speak honestly and openly to avoid miscommunication and to enhance understanding.
4. Healthy boundaries are in place — emotionally, socially and sexually.
5. Fear, control and coercion — do not exist in a healthy relationship.
Five traits of unhealthy relationships
1. Control — One dating partner makes all the decisions and can dictate what the other partner does, what they wear, or who they spend time with.
2. Isolation — One dating partner is unreasonably jealous and/or will try to isolate the other partner from their friends and family.
3. Dependence — One dating partner feels that they “cannot live without” the other. They may threaten to do something drastic if the relationship ends.
4. Disrespect — One dating partner mocks or ridicules the opinions and interests of the other partner.
5. Physical and sexual violence — One partner uses force or fights to get their way (such as hitting, slapping, grabbing, or shoving) or one dating partner pressures or forces the other into sexual activity against their will or without consent.
The JFCS LEAH program is dedicated to individuals, families and our community. We believe that through education, raising awareness and the promotion of respectful, nonviolent relationships we can help to heal and prevent teen dating violence. Start the conversation in your family, peer group or community today.
Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona clinical services: 520-795-0300
National Dating Abuse Helpline and Love is Respect: loveisrespect.org or 1-866-331-9474 or text love is to 22522
National Domestic Violence Hotline — 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2005). Choose respect community action kit: Helping preteens and teens build healthy relationships. chooserespect.engagethecrowd.com/scripts/materials/actionkit/actionkit.asp