When considering domestic abuse, many think of men and women living together or in a serious relationship who have difficulties that sadly turn to physical violence. Unfortunately, they fail to think of other forms of abuse, including sexual, verbal and emotional abuse, but the reality is 1 in 11 high school students admit to being a victims of physical domestic violence. These teenagers may or may not be in a relationship with the offender. Lynne Barber, executive director and victims advocate with Spring River adult and child services (SACS) says they deal with teen domestic violence monthly and feels the best way to eradicate or curb this vicious cycle that many times leads into adulthood is through awareness and education.
In an effort to curb the abuse, both parents and teenagers should become educated on some startling statistics that have been compiled by various researchers as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One of the most startling is the fact that, 80 percent of teens regard verbal abuse as a serious issue for their age group and 80 percent of girls who have been physically abused in their dating relationships continued dating their abuser. Equally alarming is the fact that 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend had threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup. According to accounts of girls who have been abused, they say the majority of the time the abuse takes place in the home of one of the partners. Ways to combat the problem require a team approach with counselors, friends, mentors, family and other adults in a position of leadership. The majority of these types of abuses occur in girls between the ages of 16 and 24, giving any person who has a girl this age in their life a reason to become aware of signs and take part in activities to help eliminate the terrible cycle of teen violence.
According to a press release located on the Web site teendvmonth.org, it describes the purpose of the designation stating, "Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Initiative was spearheaded by teenagers across the nation who chose to take a stand and put a stop to teen dating violence. In 2005, the importance of addressing teen dating violence was highlighted by its inclusion in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. For the first time this year, our leaders in Congress are dedicating an entire month to teen dating violence awareness and prevention. To celebrate, we are calling upon government representatives and agencies, public officials, advocates, service providers, schools, parents and youth to take part in programs and activities that promote awareness and prevention of teen dating violence."
Many girls do not even realize the pattern of abuse and according to a very informational Web site focused on addressing the issue, forms of abuse include physical, sexual and emotional or verbal. Examples of physical abuse are not blatantly as obvious as hitting, punching and biting, but can also include pinching, shoving, slapping and grabbing as well as intimidation tactics such as blocking doors and throwing things as well as the use of weapons. Sexual abuse is not limited to rape, but also includes unwanted touching, as well as pressure to have sex and threats by the partner to find someone who will do what he or she wants sexually. Emotional and verbal abuse is equally as harmful to teens, who many times are already having an identity crisis in their lives. The forms of emotional abuse include threats, possessiveness, over dependency bordering co-dependency, mood swings, humiliation tactics, withdrawal of attention, threats and isolation from friends and activities.
Research has repeatedly proven that hitting is not the first step in abuse, it normally starts with a history of verbal and emotional abuse and without being addressed can easily escalate to the more serious offenses of physical and sexual abuse. These are all things that parents can discuss with their children the Web site chooserespect.org states, "If kids learn the importance of respecting themselves and others at a young age, they are more likely to give respect in return. Learning about respect now helps kids get along with others, communicate, negotiate, make decisions and learn to be assertive. It's an important part of growing up, and talking about it early is important in establishing healthy patterns for the future.
There are numerous resources available on the Internet including media presentations, statistics, ways to educate, a schedule of television programming donated to educating the public on teen violence and ways to recognize it and eliminate it are readily available on several Web including, www.thesafespace.org, www.chooserespect.org, www.breakthecycle.org and www.loveisrespect.org, which offers video diaries and blogs from girls who have experienced and documented their journey in overcoming this very real emotional and physical issue that needs to be brought forth.
Locally the SACS hotline is available 24/7 at 994-2551 for anyone requesting advice or assistance with teen dating violence as well as any other type of family violence issue.