When parents send their children to school or out on a date, they picture hanging with friends and football games, but what if your daughter leaves to a very different night?
One in three adolescents in the United States leave for school or a date and become a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse by their dating partner. One in 10 is victim of physical violence with girls age 16 to 24 being three times more at risk than others nationwide.
Sadly, only 33% of victims ever confess to the issue leaving the problem a hidden source of pain and shame that leads to a variety of other negative issues. Teen dating violence creates greater risk for suicide, unwanted pregnancy, substance abuse and eating disorders. Teen victims of sexual assault are 50% more likely to commit suicide.
Nearly half of reported cases, 43%, are happening on school grounds.
Della Cooper, Victim coordinator with East Texas Crisis Center, said there is essential need to raise community awareness and provide training for teachers, counselors, and school staff to recognize the signs and how to help victims.
Programs like those offered by the East Texas Crisis Center are crucial to help those currently in the situation and offer insight to others before-hand. Helping victims get to know safe adults they can trust for help is another great component of this program.
If you notice warning signs such as excessive jealousy, constantly checking in, isolating victims from family and friends, getting too serious too quick and signs of anger, and violence against others and animals seek help. Frequently abusers use gas lighting, which is making the victim think it is “all in their head” and that nothing is the abusers fault including failed previous relationships.
When victims suggest leaving, just like in adult domestic violence, abusers refuse to let the victim and the danger amplifies. This is why having a safe escape plan is vital. Some examples include, involving a trusted adult, break up over the phone, track previous incidents of violence, avoid all forms of contact and social media, and be aware of surroundings and put help numbers under aliases in your phone.
If you suspect someone you care about is in a potentially dangerous relationship look for physical signs of trauma, but also more subtle changes such as bad grades, a change in mood or personality, truancy and isolation. Bruises are not always seen by the eye. Leave an accepting and open line of communication in place for them to use if needed.
“There is help,” Cooper said. “If they monitor your phone, expect an immediate response, look for signs and reach out to a trusted adult for help.”
Healthy relationships involve autonomy as well. Start spending more time with other people you care about, keep in touch with friends. Continue to do things you enjoy and make you feel good and never be ashamed to tell someone you trust or call a domestic violence hotline.
Putting you down and humiliating you in front of others or in private is emotional and verbal abuse, and is not OK.
If you would like to leave an abusive partner or know someone that does, create a safety plan and contact 903-675-2137 for help.
If you would like to offer a class on Teen Dating Violence at your school, youth group etc, please contact ETCC at the number above.