Before they become adults, one in three American teens will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from someone they’re in a relationship with — and two-thirds will never tell anyone. Shockingly, almost half of college women report experiencing violent or abusive dating behaviors.
Every February, young people and their loved ones join together for a national effort to raise awareness about the issue of teen dating violence through Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. This month-long project focuses on advocacy and education to stop dating abuse before it starts.
The awareness theme for 2021 is “Know Your Worth”. If you are a teen or know someone who is, think about what this means. Everyone human being is worthy of respect and deserving of a healthy, loving relationship. You can work on becoming more empowered by learning more about healthy relationships. Knowing what we are worth is a powerful personal statement that guides our actions, behaviors, and communication in relationships to ensure they are healthy and free from violence. But first, we must understand the essential elements of healthy relationships and learn the early warning signs of harmful and abusive behaviors.
The first step is to get the right information. While no two relationships look the same, there are a few critical things that must be present for a healthy relationship: respect; equality; honesty; trust; communication; boundaries; and consent.
Sometimes it can sometimes be hard to tell when behavior goes from healthy to unhealthy — or even abusive. Typical warnings signs of dating abuse include:
- Partners who check your phone, email, or social media accounts without your permission.
- Putting you down frequently, especially in front of others.
- Isolating you from friends or family (physically, financially, or emotionally).
- Extreme jealousy or insecurity.
- Explosive outbursts, temper, or mood swings.
- Any form of physical harm.
- Possessiveness or controlling behavior.
- Pressuring you or forcing you to have sex.
Whether on campus, online, at home, at work or hanging out, if you see something concerning or notice changes in someone close to you (like no longer posting, absent from class or not texting friends anymore) — ask questions. Let your friend know you are a safe space to share their experience without any judgment.
Here are some resources that can help:
Love is Respect. This website has a lot of resources and learning materials for young people and adults, as well as live digital chat. Call 1-866-331-9474 or text LOVEIS to 22522! Even parents and friends can call, chat or text to understand what someone they love is going through and learn how to help.
Crisis Text Line. Text HOME to 741741 to get support with a variety of issues including abuse, depression, and thoughts of suicide.
RAINN is a 24/7 sexual assault hotline providing victim services for survivors of sexual assault. Call 800-656-HOPE or live chat at rainn.org
Runaway Sideline can help young people who are thinking about running away or who already have. These people can help teens get to safety or back home if they want. Call 1-800-786-2929 or live chat at www.1800runaway.org.