February Is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

What is Teen Dating Violence?
TDV is any pattern of abuse or threat of abuse in a teen dating relationship. Violence can be physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, or digital.

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What Does it Look Like?
Unlike adult intimate partner violence, aggression tends to be mutual, but the reasons are different.(1) While both boys and girls are aggressive out of anger, girls use aggressive behavior to defend themselves, while boys use aggression to gain control.

Boys and girls are also affected differently. Girls are more likely to be injured and suffer long-term effects. Boys are more likely to laugh it off.(1)

How Common is TDV?
Each year, about 1.5 million high school students experience physical violence. Of those that report TDV, 76% report emotional violence in the forms of verbal abuse, isolation, or embarrassment.

What Puts Teens at Risk?
Factors that lead to a teen’s vulnerability to dating violence include witnessing or experiencing violence in the home, having a friend involved in TDV, or believing dating violence is okay.(2)

A major risk factor for teens is that dating is a completely new world to them. If they do not have guidance from healthy adults, they tend to flounder alone through new feelings, challenges, and experiences.

The teen brain is going through a rewiring process from back to front. This means the part of the brain involved in emotions and rewards matures before the part that calculates risk, makes plans, and stops inappropriate behavior. The teen brain also has a Personal Fable, an Invisible Audience, and the Myth of Invincibility. What do these mean in dating? Well...

Personal Fable: ”every relationship and breakup in my life is of lasting and global importance” Despite how it sounds, the teen is not being dramatic; it is a part of their brain development.

Invisible Audience: everyone is watching and evaluating me” This makes teens susceptible to peer pressure both good and bad. Violent behavior may be exhibited in front of friends when the teen would not normally behave that way (3).

Myth of Invincibility: ”this behavior or activity is risky, but nothing will happen to me”

How Can I Help the Teens in My Life?

Be a Model: teens not only need to see many examples of healthy relationships, but they may have a fairytale-esque view of relationships. When conflict arises, they may not be prepared, so having models of proper conflict resolution is vital.

Have Conversations: teens need mentors, but they are striving for independence. Casual, matter-of-fact conversations are great places to share advice and guidance.

Help Them Set Boundaries: and the earlier the better! Having boundaries set before a relationship starts is better than attempting to figure out boundaries as you go.

A great place for teens to learn more and receive support is our Hope-Filled Teens Support Groups. New groups, one for boys and one for girls, start March 26th. Learn more: www.doorofhopeministries.org/events. If a teen needs help, feel free to contact Gabby at gabby@doorofhopeministries.org or 763-767-2150.

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Written by Gabby Plaep, Door of Hope’s Youth and Young Adult Ministries Coordinator. Gabby can be reached at at gabby@doorofhopeministries.org or 763-767-2150.

Sources
1.  Teen Dating Violence: A Closer Look at Adolescent Romantic Relationships, Carrie Mulford Ph. D and Peggy C. Giordano Ph. D., NIJ Journal Issue 261
2.  Understanding Teen Dating Violence Fact Sheet, 2014--National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
3.  NIJ Journal