Monday, February 2, 2015

Youth may show signs of harmful relationships

February is the month for "lovers", but did you know that it is also Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month? Setting aside an entire month to boost awareness reflects our growing understanding that violence within relationships often begins during adolescence.

In the United States, teens and young women experience the highest rates of relationship violence of any other group. This should be particularly concerning for parents, given that adolescence is already such a vulnerable, impressionable time.

Abuse in peer relationships can negatively impact development, and teens who experience dating violence may suffer long-term behavioral and health consequences. Adolescents in controlling or violent relationships are also at higher risk for carrying these dangerous and unhealthy patterns into future relationships.

Consider these facts:

· About one in three high school students have been or will be involved in an abusive relationship.
· 40 percent of teenage girls ages 14 to 17 say they know someone their age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend.
· In one study, from 30 to 50 percent of female high school students reported having already experienced teen dating violence.

When it comes to teen dating violence, I have learned that it's very difficult for teens and parents to discuss this issue. For example, teens will admit experiencing abuse, yet will give numerous reasons why they feel they could never approach their parents for support. Talk to those parents, however, and they will confidently declare their child is definitely not being victimized. How are they sure? Because their child would most certainly confide in them; an "open door" policy has always been emphasized in their home.

This perceptual disconnect is scary for several reasons. First, the relationship violence that may be taking root flourishes in silence and isolation. It can spiral out of control quickly and unpredictably. Second, most teens don't yet possess the depth of maturity to make wise, safe decisions about their romantic relationships. Last, many adults--let alone youth--have little knowledge about the availability of resources and support in their communities. This knowledge can become a safety net around a teen who makes the painful decision to flee from a volatile situation, or one whose self worth has been systematically diminished. Parental denial can be downright dangerous in circumstances such as these.

Learn more about promoting healthy relationships:
  • There’s No Place Like Home for Sex Education K-12. - Addresses concerns that may be getting in the way of having important conversations with the young people in your life.
  • Colorado Youth Matter - Provides a variety of training, ranging from workshops of a few hours to multiday curricula trainings to promote healthy sexual development for all young people.