Teen Dating Violence
He seemed like the ideal partner early on. He was charming and handsome and quickly swept you off your feet. You spent more and more time together, which seemed romantic at first, but now it seems like you are spending all your time together. In fact, you perceive anger and annoyance in his eyes and voice when you’ve been hanging out with your friends without checking in with him. The insults and control started subtly but have continued to intensify over time. You want this to work so badly, and he usually apologizes the next day. Sure, you had noticed some red flags, but you never imagined things would end up like this. Maybe that’s what relationships are supposed to look like, right?
A pattern of behavior used to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate, dating relationship is referred to as dating violence.1 It can happen to anyone, including teenagers. In fact, around one in three high school students report being in a dating relationship where physical violence was present, and one in twelve state they have been a victim of sexual dating violence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about one in four women experience intimate partner physical violence during their lifetime2.
What does a healthy relationship look like?
While not all relationships will look the same, there are some important, foundational qualities that are essential to a long, healthy relationship. Some of these include respect, mutual intimacy, open communication, and trust. All relationships take work and effort, whether you have been together for two months or 20 years; however, it should involve equal effort and compromise by both partners. Without practicing these essential habits on both sides, the relationship could become cold or even toxic over time.
Signs that you might be in an abusive dating relationship.
- Checks your phone or social media accounts without your consent
- Isolates you physically, financially, or emotionally from others
- Exhibits extreme jealousy or insecurity
- Has explosive outbursts or mood swings
- Exhibits possessive or controlling behaviors
- Pressures or forces sex or sexual acts you are not comfortable with
- Puts you down, especially in front of others
- Has physically harmed you one or more times
But my partner is always remorseful.
After an argument, violence or intimidation, a partner will often shower you with an abundance of affection and attention. They may make promises to never repeat the behavior. This is called the Cycle of Abuse. There are four stages: building of tension, the abuse, the reconciliation, and a period of calm. During the first stage, the abuser may become angry or paranoid, causing you to become anxious and guarded. Next, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse begins. It may look like emotional manipulation, violence, attempts to control, threats, or name calling. Victims often choose to stay with their abusers because of the next stage: reconciliation or “honeymoon phase.” Gifts are given and promises are made to never commit the abuse again; and this results in the hope that this time is the last time. Lastly, comes the “calm” phase, but it is during this phase that the abuser justifies their behaviors, often denying or minimizing what actually happened or placing the blame one someone or something else. Unfortunately, the dangerous cycle continues and it can become harder and harder to exit the relationship.3
The aftermath does not affect just the relationship itself. Victims are more likely to exhibit depression and anxiety symptoms, consider suicide, develop sleep problems, and engage in unhealthy behaviors such as drugs and alcohol use.
What can I do?
Acknowledging and taking steps to address teen dating violence is difficult. Begin by believing that you deserve to be in a healthy relationship. Know that your personal safety should be your first priority! And not just physical safety, but your emotional, spiritual, and mental well-being as well. One is not more important than the others.
If you feel that you are in a violent dating relationship, reach out for help. Begin by telling a close friend, family member, counselor, or pastor. For immediate help, call the National Dating Abuse Helpline at 1.866.331.9474 or your local police department.
If you have experienced an unplanned pregnancy as a result of being in a violent dating relationship, there is help available. Pregnancy Centers provide compassionate and confidential care. We can confirm whether you have a viable pregnancy and walk with you while you discuss your options. We also provide on-going practical and emotional support and can connect you to the resources and services that you need. You are not alone. 580.234.5660
1 Types of Abuse. National Domestic Violence Hotline (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.thehotline.org/resources/types-of-abuse/
2 Fast Facts: Preventing Intimate Partner Violence. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, October 11). (https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/fastfact.html
3 Makin, Sara. 4 Stages in the Cycle of Abuse and How To Heal. (2021, April 26). https://www.makinwellness.com/cycle-of-abuse/
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