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Teen Dating Violence
by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, July 2009

Teenagers will experiment with different types of relationships. As parents of a teen, or as a teen yourself, it is important to know both myths and facts about dating violence. With guidance and support, teens can learn to choose healthy relationships, and leave unhealthy ones.

In dating violence, one partner tries to maintain power and control over the other through abuse. Dating violence crosses all racial, economic and social lines. Boys, as well as girls, can be victims, although most victims are young women, who are at greater risk for serious injury.

Dating violence is common and comes in many forms. Besides sexual violence, it includes verbal and physical abuse. Threats, put-downs, and being pushed around are common examples. Statistics show that one in three teenagers has experienced violence in a dating relationship.

Teen dating violence often is hidden because many teenagers don't tell their parents or friends about it. Typically, teens are inexperienced with dating relationships and may be pressured by peers to act violently or react submissively. In addition, they may confuse jealousy with love, and that violence is a demonstration of affection. They also hope that things will get better and that their behavior will help to their partner.

It is important that teenagers understand that they can choose better relationships. One positive step is to learn to identify the early warning signs of an abusive relationship, and believe that they deserve to be treated with respect. Signs of an abusive relationship include: refusing to take NO for an answer; acting jealous and possessive, controlling the partner's friends and activities; using threats or put-downs when alone or with friends; blaming the victim for what is wrong, or apologizing and giving excuses for violent behavior.

Teenagers struggle with independence from their parents. Parents have the responsibility to talk about healthy dating relationships and possible problems. If the teen is not comfortable talking to the parent, find another trusted person for your child to talk to. Focus on your child's safety and self-esteem. Develop a safety plan and be ready to help.

As a teen, you need to remember that no one deserves to be abused or threatened. You cannot change this person, and in time the violence will get worse. You need to take care of yourself. For parents and teens, ask for teen dating violence prevention and intervention programs at schools or through other community groups. We owe it to our teens speak out, become involved and help them become their own advocates.



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