October 30, 2013

Just For Teens

Portrait of a study group

  • A comparison of Intimate Partner Violence rates between teens and adults reveals that teens are at a higher risk of intimate partner abuse.
  • Females ages 16-24 are more vulnerable to intimate partner violence than any other group – almost triple the national average.
  • Approximately 1 in 5 female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating
  • 58% of rape victims report being raped between the ages of 12-24.
  • Intimate partner violence among adolescents is associated with increased risk of substance use, unhealthy weight control behaviors, sexual risk behaviors, pregnancy, and suicide.
  • A significant number of women who are involved in abusive relationships as adults report that they had at least one abusive dating relationship as a teenager, and that they grew up in a home where one parent abused the other.


What comes to mind when you hear someone speak of teen-age violence?

For many people the first thought is gang violence or some of the headlines of school shootings. The fact is that the problem is much more wide spread than what we see in the headlines or on the news in the evening.

One in four teenage dating relationships today results in one partner  being abused. The scope of abuse includes verbal, sexual, and emotional as well as physical. Abuse often includes elements of all of these forms of control.

Violent tendencies can be seen as early as grade school in the form of the class bully. Left unchecked, violent attitudes and behaviors carry over in the teenage dating relationship. By adulthood, these patterns are likely to continue in the form of family violence, affecting the behavior of yet another generation.

It is important to realize that power and control are underlying causes of family and dating violence. In the teen years it may be difficult to recognize the difference between romantic love, nurturing love, and addictive love (or unhealthy love). Some of the red flags of an unhealthy relationship may look like signs of someone just loving you “a little too much”. Wanting you to spend all your time with them, controlling what you wear, say or do are all danger signs of an unhealthy relationship. Remember that the abuser is acting from the need to feel powerful and to be in control. In a healthy relationship each partner wants the other to continue to grow and develop as an individual. If the person you are in a relationship with acts or speaks in ways that make you feel ‘put down’, or makes you feel you have no choice about your behavior, (such as putting pressure on you to have sex when you are not willing) or makes you feel frightened of how they may act if you do or say something they don’t like, you are in an abusive relationship.

There are cycles in all relationships, even the healthiest relationship. In an abusive relationship these cycles are more pronounced, often seem more dramatic and can happen in a quicker time. All relations have a period of tension building. This can be productive in a healthy relationship because it brings differences and concerns to the surface where they can be talked about and resolved. Following the tension building, relationships go through a “honeymoon” period where you feel like you are falling in love all over again.

The abusive relationship has cycles too. The tension-building period does not lead to a healthy discussion of problems. It most often explodes in verbal and/or physical abuse. The abuser may call you names, make threats, or in other ways attempt to make you feel badly about yourself. Many violent relationships start with verbal abuse and progress into physical abuse. Following the “explosion” the abuser is extremely sorry and promises never to behave that way again. The behavior will continue without the abuser getting help to understand their problem and to make changes. You CANNOT make the abuser change. We sometimes feel if we just love the person enough, or change ourselves enough, they will be different. You did not cause them to behave that way and you cannot change their behavior.

Often teens feel they must handle these problems themselves. They are embarrassed or afraid to tell someone they need help. In abusive situations it is very important to seek help and support. If you cannot talk to parents about the situation, try a counselor at school or other trusted adult. You can also seek help from DOVES…please don’t try to handle this alone.