By: Julie Giyer
Kern Valley Sun
February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. This issue impacts more than just the teens involved –it also impacts their parents, family, teachers, friends, as well as their communities. According to loveisrespect.org, “Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.”
Dating abuse is a pattern of abusive behaviors over a course of time used to exert power and control over a dating partner. Violent actions and words are the tools used to gain and maintain power over the partner. Abuse is a learned behavior. Many children witness abuse at home, from friends, at school, and even in the community. Many may not even realize it is wrong if it is something they experience at home on a day-to-day basis. By spreading awareness it helps teens to understand the signs of abuse and allows them to get help before it is too late.
Teen Dating Violence (TDV) affects millions of teens in the U.S. every year. TDV includes many types of behaviors: physical violence, sexual violence, digital dating abuse, financial abuse, psychological aggression including verbal and non-verbal communication, and stalking. Violent, unhealthy, or abusive relationships can have severe short and long term consequences. Victims will experience symptoms of anxiety and depression, engage in unhealthy behaviors such as drugs, smoking, and alcohol, exhibit antisocial behaviors, or contemplate or engage in suicide.
Parents, educators, peers, and family members can stop this before it starts. It is crucial for youth to begin learning the skills that they need to create and maintain a healthy relationship, including managing their feelings and communication. There are many helpful websites on Teen Dating Abuse and violence prevention. There are even hotlines that can be called such as the National Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474. The Women’s Center-High Desert, Inc. in Lake Isabella can be contacted at 760-223-2777. Schools also have counselors that will make time for students to talk with them if they feel uncomfortable talking to their parents. As an adult, it is important to be aware of the signs of TDV. It also helps to develop a relationship with your child, get to know them on a personal level and be a positive role model in your own relationships.
Teens, if you think you are being abused trust your gut. If you are afraid to talk to your partner or are fearful they may retaliate, tell someone. Whether it be your parent, a peer, or school staff, someone is always there to help. Abuse tends to increase over time and an abuser will always apologize and claim they will be better and fix things. Just be aware of false promises and the cycle of abuse. Keep in mind that your decision could be a matter of life or death depending on the severity of the abuse. Make sure to set boundaries and get to know each other’s goals, fears, wants, and limits. You deserve respect, never forget that.
Kern Valley High School just recently offered a teen dating seminar to help bring awareness to the students. The Kern River Valley Library also held a presentation for awareness. The more information we are able to provide in advocating a change, the better the outcome will be for our valley. “The message must be clear that treating people in abusive ways will not be accepted, and policies must enforce this message to keep students safe,” quoted Youth.gov.