February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM). The reality is that only 33% of teens who are in abusive relationships ever tell anyone. Teens often don’t know how to initiate a conversation about it or are unaware they are in an abusive situation. As a parent or someone who works with teens, you can change this. In honor of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, here are three things you can do to help the teens in your life.

#1 Teen Dating Violence: A Real Problem:

Did you know that approximately one in ten high school students has experienced physical abuse from a dating partner? That adds up to a staggering 1.5 million young people each year. While teen dating violence can affect anyone, women are affected disproportionately more than men. Women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence — almost 3 times the national average.

# 2 Recognizing the Signs:

Now that we understand the prevalence of teen dating violence, it’s crucial to recognize the warning signs. If you suspect your teen may be involved in an unhealthy relationship, be on the lookout for these red flags:

  • Isolation: Your teen suddenly spends all their time with their dating partner and distances themselves from friends.
  • Loss of Interest: They lose interest in activities they used to enjoy.
  • Excuses and Apologies: They find themselves making excuses or apologizing for their partner’s inappropriate behavior.
  • Physical Signs: Unexplained bruises or injuries start appearing, raising concern.
  • Emotional Changes: You notice a sudden change in their demeanor or self-confidence, particularly when they’re around their dating partner.

# 3 Starting the Conversation

Telling a teen you suspect they are in an unhealthy relationship is tough. You want to protect and help them, but you don’t want to be overbearing. Here are some helpful tips for talking about dating violence:

  • Be a Listener: Give your teen a safe space to open up and express themselves. Show that you care.
  • Validate Their Experience: Accept what they tell you, even if it’s difficult to hear.
  • Focus on Behaviors: Instead of attacking their partner, discuss specific behaviors that concern you.
  • Avoid Ultimatums: While it might be tempting to demand a breakup, it’s better to guide your teen towards making their own decisions.
  • Educate Yourself: Gather information about teen dating violence beforehand to ensure you’re well-informed.
  • Develop a Plan Together: Encourage your teen to come up with next steps, empowering them in the process.

This February, let’s break the cycle of teen dating violence. Know it’s a problem, recognize the signs, and start a conversation about it.

Did you know that 3rd Mil has courses covering healthy relationships? Learn about Consent & Respect and Respect & Resolve on our website.