Breaking the Silence:
Talking About Dating Violence
Dating violence can be tough to talk about honestly. It can be uncomfortable to bring up and embarrassing to acknowledge. But with dating violence a fact of life for many teen couples, we’ve got to break the silence.
This page offers some ideas for kicking off a discussion about teen violence. The information was compiled from a number of sources, including the San Diego City Attorney's Office, National Crime Prevention Council, Utah Attorney General's Office, San Diego City Schools, California Attorney General's Office, Washington State PTA, Liz Claiborne, Inc., and various Internet resources on domestic and teen violence.
Use this information to educate teens and adults in your community. Encourage your school or community organization to start a peer education program or a program to help abusers conquer their behavior.
Included on this page is a typical dating-violence scenario that teens or adults can use to help spur discussion. Sometimes it’s easier to explore thoughts and feelings using this kind of example than it is to talk about our own experiences.
A Typical Dating Violence Scenario
Brenda is 15 and has never had a boyfriend before. She recently started dating Frank. She thinks he is so cute. Her friends all tell her how lucky she is because she has a boyfriend. At first, Brenda thought it was sweet that Frank began calling her all the time. He always wants to know whom she is with, where she is, and when she'll be home. He has told her that she was meant to be with him and him only, forever.
Recently, Frank has started belittling her in front of his friends, insulting her, and telling her she is fat. He doesn't want her to spend time with certain of her friends - he thinks they are a bad influence. He threatens to break up with her if she won't do what he says, and that no one else will ever want her. Brenda wants to make Frank happy. In fact, she'll do anything to keep her boyfriend. She thinks this is what being in a relationship is all about.
Sound familiar? Unfortunately, many teens face this same dilemma.
Relationship violence often starts as emotional or verbal abuse and can quickly escalate into physical or sexual violence. And although many teens know at least one student who has been a victim of relationship violence, most parents either don't know it exists or don't know it is an issue.
Although there are no "perfect" ways to lead a discussion about relationship or dating violence, emphasizing some of the following points can help you focus on the facts while providing some general information to get teens talking.
Relationship Violence is
- A pattern of behavior used by someone to maintain control over his or her partner.
- It can take the form of verbal, physical, emotional, or even sexual abuse.
- Relationship violence is not about getting angry or having a disagreement.
- In an abusive relationship one partner is afraid of and intimidated by the other.
How often does it happen?
- 24% of female homicide victims are between 15 and 24 years old.
- 70% of severe injuries and deaths occur when the victim is trying to leave or has already left the relationship.
- Relationship violence is the number one cause of injury to women between the ages of 15-44.
- 63% of boys ages 11-20 arrested for murder were arrested for murdering the man who was assaulting their mother.
- 38% of date rape victims are young women between the ages of 14 and 17.
- 70% of pregnant teenagers are abused by their partners.
Who is involved?
- Relationship violence occurs between two people who are currently or formerly involved in a dating relationship.
- The abuse can begin at a very young age, as young as 11 or 12 years old.
- Friends of the couple are usually aware of the abuse and may be drawn into the situation.
Where can it happen?
- Relationship violence can occur at school — in the hall, in the classroom, in the parking lot, on the bus, at after-school activities, at a student’s workplace, at a school dance, or at a student’s home.
- In teenage dating relationships, the abuse is often public with peers witnessing the abuse; however, the abuse can also occur in private.
Signs that you are in an abusive teen dating relationship.
- Is one partner afraid of the other? Afraid to break up with the other?
- Does one partner call the other names, make the other feel stupid, or tell the other that they cannot do anything right?
- Is one partner extremely jealous?
- Does one partner tell the other where they can and cannot go or who you can and cannot be with or talk to?
- Does one partner tell the other that no one else would ever go out with them?
- Is one partner being cut off from their friends and family by the other partner?
- Does one partner feel if they say no to sexual activities they will be in trouble?
- Does one partner feel pushed or forced into sexual activity?
- Does one partner say it's the other's fault or that the other caused them to be abusive?
- Does one partner shove, grab, hit, pinch, hold down or kick the other?
- Is one partner really nice sometimes and really mean at other times (almost like they have two personalities)?
- Does one partner make frequent promises to change or say that they will never hurt the other again? Or do they say that the other is "making too big a deal" out of it?
If you can answer "yes" to any of these questions, then your partner is being abusive towards you. You may want to look at your relationship more closely and find out more about teen dating violence.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP.
What You Can Do:
Look around your community, is there someone you know who might be affected by relationship violence? Remember that anyone can be a victim. If you suspect relationship violence, there are places you can go for help and information, people you can talk to about the problem. Get help from someone you trust. Do something before the relationship gets worse or the violence increases. By reaching out, you may save someone's life, including your own.