February is teen dating awareness month and we at the VPC want to share some information and offer suggestions on how to combat the issue.
What’s the problem?
According to Break the Cycle,
· One in three high school students experience either physical or sexual violence, or both, that is perpetrated by someone they are dating or going out with.
· One in ten high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
· Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) youth are more likely to experience physical and psychological dating abuse, sexual coercion, and cyber dating abuse than their heterosexual peers.
The impact of dating violence during teenage years can have devastating and long lasting impacts on young people,
· Among male high school students who have experienced sexual and physical abuse by a dating partner, more than 1 in 4 have seriously contemplated suicide, and almost as many have attempted suicide.
· Among female high school students who have experienced sexual and physical abuse by a dating partner, nearly half have seriously contemplated suicide, and more than 1 in 4 have attempted suicide.
· High school students who have been hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their partner earned grades of C and D twice as often as earning grades of A or B.
· And considering that, “more than half (58%) of college students do not know how to help someone who is experiencing dating abuse, and nearly all (89%) are not confident in their ability to recognize the warning signs.”
What role does media play?
What we see as normalized relationship behavior as we are growing up becomes our normal. For many of us that starts out with the people around us, the relationships of our guardians and within our friend group can greatly influence us. A factor that continues to become more and more influential in young people’s lives is media. Highly toxic and dysfunctional relationships continue to be romanticized from Twilight to 50 Shades of Gray. The idea that the domineering, stalking partner is really just showing their love has real consequences. Conversations around consent are often non-existent in representations of relationships in movies or TV. There are statistics showing that kids, as young as 11,12,13 are learning about sex and relationships for the first time from what they can find on the internet. And what they are finding are damaging videos that perpetuate really unhealthy relationships riddled with abuse.
What can we do?
Young people on social media, arguably all people, are being shown perfection. You don’t put a picture up of you and your partner arguing, you put up a picture of you smiling and happy. So young people think other people have it more figured out than they do, burying the desire to talk about these issues. They need people in their lives to talk to them about relationships and consent. I was privileged enough to have parents that always made sure I knew I could talk to them, and as annoying as that was at age 15 I knew later on I could lean on them for support when I had questions about relationships. Also, being someone to call out the unhealthy parts of relationships in media or what have you while you’re watching tv or listening to a song with them. Plant those seeds. We often think young people don’t know what they are talking about, they get dismissed easily. But if a teen comes to you because they have been a victim of abuse, believe and support them.