Dating violence exists. It’s a fact that none can deny on paper: According to loveisrespect.org, an organization aimed at raising awareness of teen dating violence, there will be approximately 1.5 million cases of teens being physically, emotionally, or sexually abused by their partners this year; that’s one in three adolescents in the United States.
Yet, the shadow of dating violence remains like a monster shrouded in darkness, a frightening apparition that can be suppressed if we stop acknowledging its existence. This is the sad truth, and it shows in the number of abuse reports made by teenagers, as collected by loveisrespect.org; only 33% ever come forward regarding the abuse they’ve suffered. There is a serious lack of awareness among teens as well as adults, either because they don’t know enough about the issue, have chosen to ignore it completely, or are never told about abuse by victims.
Awareness of dating violence is definitely on the rise, due to social media and volunteers who band together to champion the cause with any of the multitude of organizations designed to raise awareness. Unfortunately, the megaphones these organizations use to herald their cause often fall on deaf ears (or at least ears that are selective of hearing).
In a recent study, the Family Violence Prevention Fund and Advocates for Youth found that “81% of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue,” and although 82% of parents thought they would be able to identify if their child was being abused, 58% couldn’t correctly identify the signs of dating abuse, which include covering bruises, being emotionally withdrawn, angry, or defensive, being nervous about interaction when his/her partner is around, or makes excuses for abusive behavior and/or suspicious excuses for avoiding friends and family.1 The fact is, dating violence prevention and awareness should be more important than it is. Those who are abused often do not have a voice, and are not believed by parents or law enforcement alike. If those 1.5 million teens that will be abused speak up with no one to listen, then our awareness is for nothing. To be truly aware, you must act on your awareness. Knowing these things, how can we help those in need of someone to listen? Do just that – listen. Sometimes, those who have been through hardships just need someone to sit and listen to their story.
First, we must realize that abuse comes in all shapes, sizes, genders, and classes. No one is above abuse. It’s also important to realize that although many victims of dating violence are female, one in seven men age 18 or older have experienced abuse by an intimate partner.2 It’s often more difficult for men to come forward about their abuse because of social stigma, so we must realize that both men and women deserve the same attention when sharing their stories with you.
Second, we must make sure to give anyone who does decide to open up the space they need to process what they are telling us. It’s often tough for people to open up about difficult experiences. Give them the time they need to tell you in their own words.
Most importantly, make sure to keep anything you are told confidential, and don’t try to intervene in an abusive situation that has potential to be harmful to you or the person being abused. If you are witness to a dangerous situation, always call 911.
If you, or someone you know has been abused or has dealt with the effects of abuse, don’t be afraid to get help. The effects of abuse are long-lasting, emotionally and physically, and you should not have to go through it alone.
http://www.loveisrespect.org also offers quizzes on dating abuse and healthy relationships.
loveisrespect.org and thehotline.org offer chat rooms to talk about your situation and have any questions answered.
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit www.thehotline.org if you are in need of assistance with abuse.
- “You Can Know the Warning Signs that Someone Is Being Abused”, Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick in partnership with Miramichi Family Violence Prevention Network and Outreach Coordinator and Ontario Women’s Directorate and the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children for their Neighbours, Friends and Families campaign, February 2009. Web. January 10, 2016.
- “No one is above abuse”, “one in seven…partner.”: “Men Can Be Victims of Abuse Too” brollings, National Domestic Violence Hotline, CDC, July 22, 2014. Web. January 10, 2016.