Parents of Teens

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No matter how young

It Happens

Teen dating abuse describes actual or threatened acts of physical, sexual, psychological, and verbal harm by a partner, boyfriend, girlfriend or someone wanting a romantic relationship.

It includes violence between two young people in a current or former relationship and can occur among heterosexual or same-gender couples. It can also include using the Internet, social networking sites, cell phones, or text messaging to harass, pressure, or victimize.

While it’s never easy to bring up difficult topics, parents have an obligation to discuss these issues with their children.

1.    Develop an open relationship with your children. Encourage them to talk about their feelings. Make sure they understand the importance of having someone to turn to for advice and that it doesn’t matter if it is you or an aunt, uncle, family friend or teacher.

2.    It is never too early to teach self-respect. No one has the right to tell your teenager who to see, what to do, what to wear, or to hit or control anyone.

3.    Let them know Teen Dating Violence is wrong and they must seek help if they ever find themselves in a situation where Teen Dating Violence occurs. Help them set personal limits and boundaries of respect.

4.    Help them understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships:

Healthy relationships have open and honest communication and an even playing field on which partners share power and control over decisions.

Unhealthy relationships have an imbalance in which one partner tries to exercise control and power over the other through threats, emotional abuse and physical abuse. At its most extreme, an unhealthy relationship can include name-calling and insults, withholding of money or other resources, threats to isolate a person from friends and family, coercion, violent acts, stalking and significant physical injury.

It doesn't simply go away

What can you do?

A 2000 survey sponsored by Liz Claiborne showed that while nearly three-fourths of parents (72%) believe their child would turn to them if they were confronted with an abusive dating partner, only half of the teens say they would talk to a parent. So, start your conversations early.

What you can say:

I care about what happens to you. I love you and I want to help.

If you feel afraid, it may be abuse. Sometimes people behave in ways that are scary and make you feel threatened — even without using physical violence. Pay attention to your gut feelings.

The abuse is not your fault. You are not to blame; no matter how guilty the person doing this to you is trying to make you feel. Your partner should not be doing this to you.

It is the abuser who has a problem, not you. It is not your responsibility to help this person change.

It is important to talk about this. Many people who have been victims of dating violence have been able to change their lives after they began talking to others. If you don’t want to talk with me, find someone you trust and talk with that person.

How often does this happen?

Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence — almost triple the national average.

Among female victims of intimate partner violence, 94% of those age 16-19 and 70% of those age 20-24 were victimized by a current or former boyfriend or girlfriend.

Violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18.

The severity of intimate partner violence is often greater in cases where the pattern of abuse was established in adolescence.

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