Teen Dating Violence: A Crisis That Can Be Stopped

When more teens see dating violence occurring among their peers than not, there is a crisis.

Over the years, high school relationships have changed – and seemingly for the worse. Society has transformed the idea of dating to a one-night stand. Modern society has also allowed for adolescents to be desensitized and devalued on the issue of sex.

Love requires respect, but 67 percent of high school relationships involve just the opposite.

Teen dating violence has become an ever growing issue in modern day society for a variety of reasons.  Violence is no longer limited to physical and sexual but scales beyond to emotional, psychological, and verbal as well.

Consider: One in three adolescents involved in a high school relationship will fall victim to such violence, according to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency Focus. 

Girls between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence – triple the national average, according to the Department of Justice.

According to ThoughtCo., 80 percent of teens think that dating violence is an issue among their peers.  Each year, one in four teens report some sort of dating violence.  Whether it be verbal, emotional, physical, sexual, or digital, dating abuse is at an all-time high and shows little signs of improvement.

Love is Respect is a national organization that focuses on dating violence. In a recent survey, the group found that 1.5 million high school students experience physical abuse from a dating partner nationwide every year.

Psychological abuse has become the most prominent form, according to the National Institute of Justice, accounting for 60 percent of reported victimization.  While sexual abuse (18 percent) and physical abuse (18 percent) are also outstanding issues, it is imperative to put more focus on psychological abuse.

One in three adolescents involved in a high school relationship will fall victim to such violence, according to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency Focus. 

The brain is not fully developed until age 25.  This adds to the psychological side of promiscuity which is still related to sexual abuse, since most of the time promiscuity exists to attract and keep a mate.

Rachel Drake, a high school psychology teacher in Denver, North Carolina., who has been teaching for over a decade, had much to say on the matter as she has watched the progression of media influence high school women.

With sex being everywhere, the pressure among high school students has become more intense. In high school, being a virgin is frowned upon more than being sexually active.

“When I was in high school, there was not as much access to technology, especially social media,” she said. “We had issues with sexual pressures and relationship pressures, but not to the degree that I see with my students.”

“High school women are seen as an outsider more than an insider when they are a virgin in their last two years,” Drake explained.

While sex itself is not sexual abuse, Drake explained how the two directly correlate.

“Since young people are more OK with the sexual pressures and sex they see around them, it makes young men think that it is ok to do what they want with young ladies,” Drake said, “and it makes young ladies feel that it is OK for these men to do whatever they want.”

Young ladies are seen using sex to get what they want nowadays, as the body is, for many, not so sacred like it used to be.

“When I was in high school, there were not nudes that were sent around,” Drake said. “It was unheard of because we valued our bodies, but now with nudes being so popular, sexual assault, abuse, and promiscuity have increased.”

Thanks to the vastness of media, society sees sex commonly in modern culture through music, television, the radio, movies, and more.

Consequently, society has transformed the idea of dating to a one-night stand.

“Nowadays, physical relationships in society are portrayed as the norm in adolescent relationships compared to years ago when adolescents were taught to value themselves,” explained Dr. Patrick Stern, a behavioral developmental pediatrician.

“Physical contact and sex were considered special back in the day and that type of relationship and involvement was saved for mature, long-term relationships,” said Stern.  “Suggesting people wait until they are in this type of relationship helps adolescents mature individually and avoid physical and emotional abuse that comes from inappropriate relationships that adolescents aren’t ready for.”

Stern explained that, “as social values have declined and changed, promiscuous activity of adolescents has taken a rise.”

“The loss of social values has caused adolescents to participate in social activities that they are not emotionally mature enough to handle,” said Stern.

The loss of social values cannot be blamed on anything specific, but it is a fact that society has influenced the loss of values.

“Society portrays behavior that is not healthy or normal for adolescents,” Stern said, adding, “this portrayal is unhealthy and when seen by adolescents as the norm, they participate in activities or relationships that are potentially unhealthy for them both emotionally and physically.”

While parents are not ultimately to blame for the abuse transpiring, they often do not help. About 81 percent of parents in a survey run by Love is Respect answered that they do not think teen dating violence is an issue. And 82 percent of parents are confident that they would notice the signs if their child was involved in an abusive relationship, but this is unrealistic for 58 percent of them in reality would not.

The National Institute of Justice has found that parent-child relationships plays a major role in teen dating violence.

After breaking up parenting styles into three categories – positive parenting, strict and harsh parenting, and disengaged and harsh parenting – it became noticeable that parent-child relationships can effectively prevent and address teen dating violence.

In a setting where there is positive parenting occurring, the toleration of violence was minimal and the expectations of the child in a relationship were clearly communicated for the wellbeing of the adolescent.

One of the largest supporters for a solution to end teen dating violence is the National Institute of Justice. NIJ is the research, development, and evaluation agency of the United States Department of Justice which focuses on researching crime control and justice issues.  While providing objective, independent based knowledge and tools to meet challenges of crime and justice at both the state and local levels, NIJ was able to create the Office of Violence Against Women.

The Office of Violence Against Women is an agency focused on reducing violence against women.  Started in 1994 by President Bill Clinton, VAWA was given $1.6 billion to help investigate and prosecute violent crimes against women.  Additionally, it imposed an automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, civil redress in cases which the prosecutors chose to leave not persecuted.

DELTA FOCUS is a program that was founded as a five-year agreement funding a 10-state domestic violence coalition.  Standing for the domestic violence prevention enhancements and leadership through alliances focusing on outcomes for communities united with states, this program engages in primary prevention of intimate partner violence.

In other words, their goal is to stop the violence before it occurs.  The program operates at the national, state, and local levels and focuses on strategies to address structural determinants of abuse.

Besides the government leading efforts to raise awareness to violence, there are additional resources made publicly available to help those dealing with abuse.  The National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline is a tool available to anyone and everyone.

The hotline is a tool which a victim can call and speak to a trained advocate.  After explaining the situation, the victim and the advocate are able to establish potential next steps.  The advocate can help the individual come up with a safety plan as well as point them in the direction of local resources including counselors and support groups.  Advocates are trained on dating abuse as well as healthy relationships and can be reached by phone, text, or online chat.

One way to make an impact towards reducing teen dating violence is through a generational movement create broader awareness to end sexual violence.

RALIANCE is doing just that.  An organization founded in Washington, D.C., RALIANCE is all about taking action through cultural change, prevention, policy, and messaging.  This past year, the organization sponsored THISGEN, a five-day summit in Washington, D.C., where young activists were brought together to work on plans to end dating violence.

One of the largest problems this current generation has regarding teen dating violence is the lack of understanding that certain actions should not be tolerated in a relationship.

While many people agree that no relationship is perfect, there is a line that needs to be drawn as to what is appropriate in a relationship and what is not.  Abuse should never be thought as an acceptable part of the equation for a happy, healthy relationship.

The efforts organizations are making to increase awareness, provide resource and tools to stop violence among adolescent relationships is commendable but appropriate discussions at the family dinner would certainly be more effective.

Respect is a cornerstone of love and until future generations realize the importance of respect, abusive relationships will continue to spawn.

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