With the introduction of technology, the dating scene has definitely changed. Specifically, when it comes to the methods in which we communicate. As I reflect on my early dating years, I spent countless hours writing down my feelings, perfecting my origami skills, and finding the exact moment to make the note exchange between class periods. Outside of the school setting, you had to muster up the courage to call your partner at their home and ask for permission to speak. My mother would often times pick up the landline and say “Okay, you have 5 minutes left!” At that very moment I would shout, “Mom!” out of sheer embarrassment all while trying to play the cool card and salvage the few moments I had left. However, this was how the entire communication process went, as our landline “was not just for me” and per my Mother’s favorite line “I didn’t pay any bills”. As I reflect on those times and fast forward to the present day, I think about how will I plan to prepare my own children for the dating scene all while encouraging healthy boundaries for themselves and others.
So what is Teen Dating Violence and why should we been informed? According to the CDC, Teen Dating Violence can be physical, emotional, or sexual, and includes stalking. It can occur in person or electronically, which includes texting, social media, and other online applications. See the following definitions below:
Physical violence is when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or using another type of physical force.
Sexual violence is forcing or attempting to force a partner to take part in a sex act, sexual touching, or a non-physical sexual event (e.g., sexting) when the partner does not or cannot consent.
Psychological aggression is the use of verbal and non-verbal communication with the intent to harm another person mentally or emotionally and/or exert control over another person.
Stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention and contact by a partner that causes fear or concern for one’s own safety or the safety of someone close to the victim.
As a community, we have been groomed to believe that the violation of others only presents in two forms: physical and sexual. Dismissing the idea that psychological aggression and stalking will not have long term effects. During my work with teens, I would often times hear the following statements as it related to interactions with their partner:
-He gets emotional sometimes, but it’s okay because he loves me.
-He doesn’t like my friends because they are bad influences.
-If I don’t answer the phone by text, he will usually call or FaceTime in 10 minutes.
-He doesn’t like the pictures I post, he says they are too sexy.
-I just got off social media all together, he said we don’t need it. We have each other.
I would often times leave these encounters in complete shock as many of these reports were coming from 12-14 year olds. Not to be misled by gender, the CDC reports that nearly 1 in 11 female and approximately 1 in 15 male high school students report having experienced physical dating violence in the last year.
So you ask, what are the next steps? Teen Dating Violence can be a multifaceted issue, as there is not just one contributing factor. I truly believe parents are the first line of defense when it comes to modeling healthy relationships. Your children actually have front row seats in regards to how you and your partner choose to handle conflict or how you decide to work together. However, a few places to start include:
1. Promoting positive self-esteem and self-image-remember our affirmations.
2. Encouraging healthy communication-this includes the use of how to safely engage in social media.
3. Create a safe space for your child to openly share emotions and experiences without judgement.
If you or or someone you know needs an additional resource, please contact:
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 1-866-331-9474 1-866-331-8453 TTY
Prefer to text? Text "loveis" to 22522