What do you remember from your high school days? Is it the ugly dress you wore to prom? Being on your high school’s sports team? What about that high school crush you could never get over? As you reminisce about the days long before the realities of “adulting,” do you recall being informed about what a healthy relationship looked like?
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. As advocates, our goal is to not only educate parents, the community, and teens on the red flags of dating abuse, but to also equip youth with the skills and resources necessary to develop healthy relationships.
While youth are working through the normal pressures and stress of teen development, many are also experiencing the negative dynamics of unhealthy relationships. Sometimes, we hear stories of teens that are unaware that the experiences they are having are, in fact, abuse.
One of these teens is Jenny, who woke up to 63 text messages from her boyfriend; several of them were threats that he would kill himself if she did not respond. When she woke up, she anxiously texted him back, begging and pleading with him to not do anything to hurt himself. Jenny’s boyfriend demanded she send him a picture of where she was to confirm her whereabouts. Once the photo was sent, Jenny received several apologies from her boyfriend, who stated he loved her and just wanted to make sure she was okay. Jenny reached out to our helpline after encouragement from a worried friend.
Situations like these are not isolated. In fact, one in three teens will experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse by an intimate partner. Because relationships exist on a spectrum, it may be difficult to tell if your teen is in an unhealthy, or even abusive, relationship. There are several indicators that may be signs a teen is experiencing a pattern of destructive behavior of power and control in their relationship.
Red flags of abuse include:
• Excessive possessiveness, jealousy or insecurity
• Invasions of privacy, such as looking through cell phone, social media, or email without permission
• Pressuring their partner into unwanted sexual activity
• Controlling what they wear or who they spend time with
• Explosive temper, constant belittling, and putdowns
• Threatening or causing physical violence
If any of these signs are recognizable in a teen you may know, reach out to them. Let them know you are there by encouraging honest and open conversations. If they are not ready to open up about their experiences, offer them resources and remain supportive. If you are in need of support or resources, call our 24/7 helpline at 877-531-5522 or text/email email@example.com.
For more ways to get involved in supporting healthy teen relationships, join Radiant Futures and eleven other organizations in raising a collective $135,000 during our Love Is Giving Day fundraising campaign on February 12.