In 2009, I spent weeks talking to my girls group about teen dating violence when Chris Brown assaulted Rihanna. A couple weeks ago a teen mother in Prince George’s County was killed by the father of her child who then took his own life. Last week, I dialogued with adults about the “Chris Brown can beat me anytime” social media responses after Chris’ Grammy Award wins. On yesterday Drake tweeted “A jealous girlfriend is a faithful girlfriend. If she doesn’t get jealous when someone has your attention, it’s because someone has hers.” There is not enough time today to give my commentary on any of these and dozens of other encounters and conversations I’ve had around teen dating violence. Today I am just getting to the facts.
Teen dating is physical, sexual, or psychological/emotional violence within a dating relationship which includes stalking. It can occur in person or electronically (social media and texting) and may occur between a current or former dating partner. Dating violence crosses all racial, economic and social lines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, found that nationally, 9.8 percent of high school students report being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the 12 months prior to the survey. During the preteen and teen years, young people are learning skills they need to form positive relationships with others. Being in a healthy relationship can positively affect a teen’s emotional development. It is no surprise that being in an unhealthy, abusive or violent relationship can negatively affect a teen’s emotional development. Victims of teen dating violence are more likely to do poorly in school, and report binge drinking, suicide attempts, and physical fighting. Many teens struggle to end unhealthy relationships and must be educated about unhealthy behaviors to avoid abusive relationships with future partners.
No one deserves to be abused, threatened, or stalked. Prevention is the key to ending teen dating violence. Teens need to know that jealousy and control don’t equal love. When teens are aware of the warning signs of unhealthy relationships and qualities of healthy relationships, they can choose better relationships. When adults are good relationship role models and work to create a safe space to listen without judgment teens are more willing to express themselves. People who are treated well generally treat others well (I know that is not always true). Our job is to help teens understand that they are valuable, that they have choices, and that there is help and support to end abusive behaviors and leave abusive relationships. We can do it together.
Nicki Sanders, MSW, Chief Visionary Officer
The Teen Toolbox provides youth portfolio development and civic engagement and academic enrichment opportunities to help teens set goals for life after high school and create a road map to reach those goals through its PACKAGED FOR SUCCESS™ Programs.