Dating violence or abuse can occur in intimate relationships between people from ages pre-teen through adulthood. However, studies have shown that teen’s ages 13-18 are at high risk as they are beginning to explore dating and intimacy. Additionally, this age group is at risk because statistics have shown that they are the least likely group to disclose warning signs or abuse to a friend, family member or trusted adult and especially to report dating violence to the police.
A basic definition of Teen Dating Violence or Abuse is.. a pattern of actual or threatened acts of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse, perpetrated by an adolescent against a current or former dating partner. Abuse may include insults, coercion, social sabotage, sexual harassment, threats and/or acts of physical or sexual abuse.
The abusive teens uses this pattern of violent and coercive behavior, in a heterosexual or homosexual dating relationship, in order to gain power and maintain control over the dating partner.
Here are some common myths we often hear from teens regarding Teen Dating Violence…
Myth: It can’t happen to me
FACT: More then 1 in 10 teenagers experience physical violence in their dating relationships. 1 in 4 teens report experiencing some type of abuse (physical, verbal, emotional mental, or sexual)
Myth: Jealousy and possessiveness are a sign of true love.
FACT: Jealousy and possessiveness are a sign that the person sees you as a possession. It is the most common early warning sign of abuse.
Myth: Teen dating violence isn’t really that serious.
FACT: Thirty percent of all women who are murdered in this country are killed by their husband or boyfriend. According to a Massachusetts study that same high percentage applied to teen women aged 15-19, as well. Also, 60% of all rapes reported to rape crisis centers are committed by acquaintances, and the majority of victims are aged 16-24.
Myth: Men are battered by women just as often as women are battered by men.
FACT: The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 95% of the reported incidents of assaults in relationships are committed by males.
Myth: Alcohol causes a man to batter.
FACT: Many men who batter do not drink heavily, and many alcoholics do not beat their partners. Further, batterers who do drink don’t necessarily give up battering when they give up drinking. While some abusers do beat their partners while they are drunk, the alcohol acts as an excuse.
Myth: Victims bring on the abuse themselves. They ask for it.
FACT: Perpetrators believe they have the right to use abuse to control their partner, and they see the victim as less than equal to themselves. The victim has no control over the abuser.
Myth: If a person stays in an abusive relationship, it must not really be that bad.
FACT: People stay in abusive relationships for a number of reasons: fear, economic dependence, confusion, loss of self-confidence, not recognizing that what’s happening is abusive, belief that the abuser needs their help or will change.
Myth: Most batterers are bums or crazy people.
FACT: Batters are found in all classes and types of people: rich, poor, professional, unemployed, black, white, urban, and rural.
What makes dating abuse in teen relationships different from adult domestic abuse?
- EXPERIENCE: This may be the teen’s first experience with romantic love and/or sex
- PRESSURE: There is extraordinary peer pressure, societal pressure and even perhaps parental pressure for teens to have a romantic partner. Particularly for girls to have a boyfriend and for boys to be sexually active.
- PARENTS: Some teen victims are very concerned about their parent(s) finding out that there has been abuse in their relationships. This may be because they are still involved with the abusive partner and don’t want to be restricted by a parent to NOT see their partner. But sometimes the abusive relationship is over and the victim still doesn’t want the parents to know what happened. Sometimes this is due to a fear that the parent(s) would “freak out,” wouldn’t trust their judgment in the future, or that they would have to reveal lies they may have told their parents when they were still in the relationship. Sometimes the concern is that the parents wouldn’t understand, or would think the teen was just “being dramatic.”
- SCHOOL: Some teen victims attend the same school as the abuser. At the very least this means they must see the person every day. In the worst case scenario, this poses a serious safety risk to the victim. Even in cases where a restraining order has been issues, the abuser has certain rights that can make safety planning difficult.
- RESOURCES? ISSUES?: Some teens may have multiple problem. This is true for adult victims, however the types of problems may be different. Also, in many ways there are fewer resources avaliable for help and which are specifically for teenagers.