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Don’t Confuse Love and Abuse: A Discussion About Teen Dating Violence

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, a national campaign to spread awareness about intimate partner violence among teenagers in their relationships.

She got mad at me and pushed me against my locker.

He doesn’t like when I hang out with my friends instead of him.  

They’ve called me 15 times, asking where I am.

Is this normal? Should I tell someone about this?

What do you do if your partner makes you feel unsafe in your relationship? How do you know if the relationship you’re in is a healthy one?

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, a national campaign to spread awareness about intimate partner violence among teenagers in their relationships. According to loveisrespect.org, 1 in 3 teens between ages 12 and 18 experiences some form of dating violence in their lifetime. Dating violence happens in every community and can occur in any relationship, regardless of ethnicity, religion, economic status, sexuality, or any other factor.

What is Dating Violence?

Abuse can be more than just physical. Just like domestic abuse that occurs in adult relationships, dating violence can come in many forms:

  • Physical – Slapping, punching, biting, shoving, destroying or damaging personal property, etc.
  • Verbal/Emotional – Threatening, blaming or criticizing, isolating you from other people, extreme jealousy or possessiveness, guilt-tripping.
  • Financial – Unwanted gifts, preventing you from getting to work, getting you fired, telling you how to spend your money, criticizing your spending habits.
  • Sexual – Pressuring you into doing sexual things, forced sexting, or unwanted sexual contact.
  • Digital/Technological – Excessive texts or phone calls, reading your emails or text messages, stealing or insisting on sharing your passwords.

How Do I Know if My Relationship Is Unhealthy?

While physical abuse may be easier to spot, other forms of dating abuse can be hard to recognize – according to loveisrespect.org, 57% of college students say dating violence is difficult to identify, and 58% were unsure how they could help if someone they knew was in an unhealthy relationship. Dating violence follows the cycle of abuse, which is based around power and control. An abusive partner might try to disguise manipulation in a caring, loving way (using phrases like “I only do this because I love you”, or “It’s just because you’re so important to me”). If you’re unsure if your relationship is unhealthy, think about your partner’s behavior:

-Does you partner have an explosive temper, or seem to have dramatic mood swings?

-Does your partner do things to physically harm or intimidate you?

-Do they constantly put you down, blame you for their problems, or make you feel bad about yourself?

-Do they get jealous when you spend time with your friends or family, or constantly call or text to check up on you when you’re not with them?

-Do they read your texts, emails, or use your social media without your permission?

-Do they try to tell you what to do, who to talk to, or how to look?

How To Get Help

So, what should you do if you’re in an unsafe relationship, or you want to help someone who is?

A common stigma is that someone impacted by domestic abuse can easily leave their relationship. This isn’t always the case, and there are many barriers to leaving an unhealthy situation. If you share children or pets with your abuser, you may be concerned for their safety in addition to your own. Some people worry that the abuse will get worse, or that friends and family will judge or embarrass them. Others feel pressured to stay with their partner because of mutual friends or going to the same school.

Only 1 in 3 teens experiencing dating violence tell someone. Many keep quiet out of the fear that the abuse might get worse, or that the people in their lives won’t understand – a recent study found that 81% of parents don’t believe teen dating violence is an issue, or don’t know much about their teen’s relationship. If you or someone you know needs help, call our 24-hour domestic violence hotline at 708-485-5254, or click here for more information on our domestic violence services.

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