When we talk about sexual assault, abusive relationships, and sexual harassment, we tend to think those things only happen to adults.

Wrong. Our teens experience such acts of violence too, and in larger numbers than most are aware.  With summer upon us and our teens hanging out more with less supervision, it’s a good time to take a look at teen dating violence.
Many teens do not comprehend the destructive effects of violent behavior on their lives and just assume its normal in every dating relationship. At this period in their life, your teen is forming relationships that set the stage for their future. As a parent, you want to be sure you do your part to help your child understand what a healthy relationship feels and looks like.
Here are some statistics about teen abuse, some red flags to look for, risk factors, and where to get help if it happens to you or to someone you know.
“Teen dating violence is defined as the physical, sexual, or psychological/emotional violence within a dating relationship, as well as stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and may occur between a current or former dating partner.  The statistics about teen dating violence reveal that it is all too common:
•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.
•Approximately 70% of college students say they have been sexually coerced” (http://www.blackburncenter.org/teen-issues)
 Teens are still developing emotionally and their dating relationships influence their development. While a healthy relationship can have a positive effect on a teen’s emotional health, an unhealthy one, which includes abusive or violent relationships, can cause many damaging long-lasting effects. Victims of teen dating violence are more likely to have lower grades, be involved in alcohol consumption, attempt suicide, and engage in fighting. Victims of teen dating violence tend to carry this pattern of violence into their future relationships, as well as teens who stay in violent relationships tend to be at a higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, promiscuity, as well as being at a higher risk of domestic violence as an adult.
“There are some risk factors that make one more vulnerable to dating violence. Risks of having unhealthy relationships increase for teens who:
•Believe it is okay to use threats or violence to get their way or to express frustration or anger.
•Use alcohol or drugs.
•Hang out with violent peers.
• Have multiple sexual partners.
•Have a friend involved in dating violence.
•Are depressed or anxious.
•Have learning difficulties and other problems at school.
•Don’t have parental supervision and support.
•Witness violence at home or in the community.
• Have a history of aggressive behavior or bullying” (http://www.blackburncenter.org/teen-issues).
Dating violence can be reduced when teens, families, organizations, and communities work together to apply effective prevention strategies. We need to teach effective communication, how to manage uncomfortable emotions like anger and jealousy, and we need to teach our teens how to treat others with respect. Our adult relationships are examples to our teens in what is acceptable.  We must make sure to display healthy practices.
If you or someone you know is involved in a violent relationship, help is available.  Call Crisis Services 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000 or our Jackson  County Office at 256.574.5826 to speak with an advocate.

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