Intimate partner violence (IPV) affects one in three adolescents and teenagers in the United States each year. Unfortunately, unhealthy relationship patterns develop early and can follow an individual into adulthood. Raising awareness is key when it comes to bringing an end to teen dating violence.
IPV is a pattern of abusive behaviors, whether they be physical, sexual, psychological or emotional, that are used to exert power over an intimate partner. This can be in-person or through electronic means, as the rise in technology has enabled new forms of stalking and harassment. Dating violence is common among teenagers because they have little relationship experience and often believe that certain abusive behaviors are “normal” in relationships. This is especially true of those who come from abusive homes, as that is what they have learned. Teasing, constant texting and mild jealousy are behaviors that might seem innocent or even endearing in budding romantic relationships. However, these red flags are potentially indicative of control issues, often developing into more violent and harmful behaviors. Other red flags include putting a partner down, isolating the partner from friends and/or family, making false accusations fueled by jealousy and general possessiveness. This violence typically escalates, becoming progressively more dangerous.
Physical abuse is what typically comes to mind when teen dating violence or IPV is mentioned. However, emotional abuse is even more widespread and typically precedes physical violence. Sexual abuse is often misunderstood within relationships. Sexual violence includes rape and coercion, but it also includes behaviors such as restricting access to contraception, forcing a partner to get an abortion, bullying during sex, sexting and any form of abuse within this realm. There is also a misunderstanding among teenagers that if an individual consents to sexual relations once, this consent can be applied to future escapades. That is not the case, as consent is required each time partners engage in sexual activity and sex without consent is rape regardless of relationship status.
Advances in technology have made it easier for perpetrators of IPV to keep a close eye on their partners at all times. Behaviors indicative of teen dating violence exhibited through technology include demanding a partner’s passwords to access his or her phone or computer, cyberbullying, stalking and possessiveness through social media, stalking with GPS or sexting. While many teens believe sexting is legal if the photos and texts are sent with consent, the law dictates that any pornographic content of minors is illegal. This means that two consenting teenagers caught sexting could face having to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.
While light has been shed on domestic violence in the past couple decades, awareness also needs to be spread for teenagers struggling with similar issues. Violent behavior most often develops in individuals between ages 12 to 18, so that is the time during which healthy relationship skills and conflict resolution can be developed instead. According to a 2013 survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 10 percent of high school students reported being physically victimized by a dating partner and 10 percent reported being sexually victimized by a dating partner. Teens who experience dating violence are at higher risk for depression, anxiety, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, drug and/or alcohol abuse, suicidal thoughts and future abusive relationships.
There is a lot of judgment surrounding teen dating violence, as there is with domestic violence. Victim-blaming and shame are unfortunate products of the misunderstanding surrounding IPV and teen dating violence and often keep those who have been abused from seeking help. Other factors preventing teens from seeking help are fear, embarrassment, low self-esteem (often as a direct result of the constant abuse), belief that the abuse is “normal,” reliance on the perpetrator (monetary or otherwise) or out of love for the perpetrator. The cycle of abuse fades quickly from an episode of violence to the honeymoon phase, during which feelings of love and happiness are heightened. Unfortunately, no matter how much love is in an abusive relationship, the trigger is always waiting to bring forward the next episode of violence.
Teen dating violence can affect individuals in any kind of dating relationship, even those that are casual or short-term. It is vital that teens be aware of red flags for dating violence and to know that jealousy, though often romanticized, is dangerous in the context of any relationship. If you or your loved one is getting out of an abusive relationship, it is important to acknowledge that mental health care might be among the resources you need. Sovereign Health Rancho San Diego is a facility that specializes in helping adolescents and minors struggling with mental health issues, substance abuse and dual diagnosis. Call or chat with us online to speak with a professional today.