Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center, the region’s leading resource to prevent abuse, protect children and heal families, offers strategies for teens to identify healthy versus abusive relationships amid Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. During a month largely focused on love and relationships, it is imperative to provide teens with skills and resources to identify and protect themselves from abusive relationships.
Being involved in an abusive relationship can have devastating consequences. At Dee Norton, we know that youth who have been abused are at higher risk for emotional obstacles such as depression, anxiety, and suicide attempts. The same youth are also at risk of physical health concerns including high blood pressure, asthma, and obesity. Studies show 1 in 3 teens will be a victim of abuse by a dating partner each year. To better protect our teens, it is essential to provide actionable strategies to recognize abusive behaviors from the start.
“Teen dating violence is not only physical but can also be sexual or emotional,” says Beverly Hutchison, Executive Director at Dee Norton. “Teen dating abuse can also be in person or, increasingly more common, by texting or posting images on social media. Talking about these topics can be hard, but we encourage teens to have open and honest conversations with a parent or trusted adult. Knowing the signs of abuse and what to do if abuse is a concern can help teens in their own relationships and help them recognize the signs in those of their friends.”
To help teens better understand abusive relationships, Dee Norton has compiled five actionable strategies to identify and protect against abusive relationships.
Understand the different types of abuse.
– Physical Abuse – Any unwanted contact that causes or has the intention of causing injury, disability, or death.
– Emotional Abuse – Non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, excessive texting, humiliation, intimidation, or isolation.
– Sexual Abuse – Pressure or coercion to participate in unwanted sexual acts.
– Stalking – Repeated unwanted attention or contact that creates a pattern and concern of safety for the victim or their loved ones.
Look for warning signs of abuse in relationships, such as:
– Harming you in any physical, emotional, or sexual way
– Threatening to hurt you if you leave the relationship
– Threatening to hurt themselves if you leave the relationship
– Attempting to control your life (how you dress, who you spend time with, etc.)
– Making you feel unworthy or shaming you for your actions
– Twisting the truth to make you feel at fault
– Demanding to know where you are at all times
– Getting irrationally angry or jealous
Decide your boundaries. What you want in a relationship and how to express those boundaries to your dating partners. You have the right to be safe and treated with respect. Tell a parent, trusted adult, health provider, or friend what you’re going through so they can help.
Actively listen to your loved ones. Often those on the outside of your relationships may see “red flags” before you do. While you may not agree with them at first, make a mental note of what they say to ensure you’re not missing anything.
– If you need help, resources and support are available to help you. Experiencing abuse can leave you feeling defeated, scared, alone, or with low self-esteem. Talk to a trusted adult and seek help finding a therapist that can help you work through these feelings and provide you with skills to cope and understand life after abuse.
– Immediate and preventative assistance is here for you:
– Love Is Respect Helpline: 1-866-331-9474
– National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
– If you are feeling unsafe, call your local law enforcement or 911.
To learn more about recognizing abusive relationships and how to get help, visit www.deenortoncenter.org.
About Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center
The Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center is the region’s leading resource to prevent abuse, protect children and heal families. Primary services include forensic interviews, medical examinations, and mental health assessments as well as immediate support and coordination. The center also provides evidence-based therapy to child victims and their families. For more information, visit www.deenortoncenter.org.