Many teens, especially those in new relationships, may wrongly assume that physical violence is the only form of dating abuse. The verbal or emotional cruelty in relationships can often be ignored simply because teens do not realize that such exploitation also constitutes dating abuse. To sensitize teens about the adverse impacts of emotional dating abuse, the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPVD) unveiled a new social media campaign at Columbia High School in East Greenbush in January 2018.
The campaign – Dating Abuse is #NotJustPhysical – “aims to educate teens that hurtful and cruel words and controlling language and behavior are red flags in dating relationships.” Featuring local teens, the campaign will run throughout February on Snapchat and Instagram. It aims to connect teens aged 13-17 years with resources, information and help to tackle situations where they are concerned about themselves or a friend facing any kind of dating violence.
Although many American teens experience physical or emotional abuse in an intimate relationship, few talk about it openly. Parents may also avoid talking to their children about intimate partner violence (IPV). To increase awareness and protect teens, February is observed as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month across the United States. It aims to encourage parents, schools, communities and teens themselves to start a conversation and prevent dating abuse.
Non-physical abuse and emotional scars
The state-run campaign seeks to emphasize that teen dating abuse can take many forms which may not always involve physical violence. In fact, non-physical abuse like hurtful and cruel words, either spoken or sent by electronic means, and dominating behavior can result in “emotional scars.” Verbal abuse can further intensify into physical harm. “Our goal is to help teens understand that controlling and possessive behaviors are a form of dating abuse, and that they don’t have to take it: Information and help are available,” said Gwen Wright, executive director, OPVD.
Each of the campaign’s four social media ads feature local teens – three girls and a boy – facing an onslaught of abusive and controlling comments: “If I can’t have you, no one can,” “You’re pathetic,” “I know where you are,” and “You’re lucky I love you.” The teens appear distressed, overwhelmed or stunned. Although dating abuse can impact teens in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships, past research on U.S. high school students showed that one in five girls experienced some form of dating violence, compared to one in 10 boys.
A previous study on high school students aged 13-19 years (47 percent girls, 53 percent boys) examined the association between adolescent dating violence and psychological well-being. For girls, increasing levels of dating abuse resulted in higher levels of post-traumatic stress and dissociation even after accounting for demographics, family violence and social desirability factors. For boys, the levels of abuse were related to higher levels of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress even after controlling for other factors.
Another earlier study examined the association between childhood emotional abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomatology and dating violence. Taking other forms of abuse into consideration, it was found that childhood emotional abuse was a “significant predictor of both PTSD symptomatology and dating violence among males and females.”
The study concluded that the youths in child protection services (CPS) were a high priority group for dating violence and PTSD-linked intervention. They continued to experience the adverse impacts of childhood emotional abuse in their adolescent adjustments.
Dating violence and PTSD
A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in April 2017 showed that 7.1 percent women and 3.7 percent men in the U.S. were victims of physical violence, contact sexual violence, stalking or rape by an intimate partner before the age of 18. Victims reported fear, concern for safety and symptoms of PTSD as commonly-occurring outcomes. Symptoms of PTSD included nightmares, remaining constantly on alert, being watchful or easily startled, and feeling numb or detached from others, activities and surroundings.
PTSD is among the most debilitating outcomes of teen dating violence. It is vital that teens are empowered to identify an abusive partner. Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego offers necessary treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in teens. Call our 24/7 helpline or chat online to know more about our facilities providing teen PTSD treatment.