21 Feb, 2020 Prevent Teen Dating Violence with Increased Awareness
by Trudi Griffin
February is Teen Dating Violence awareness month. Statistics from FaithTrust Institute state that 9.4% of high school students report some form of physical abuse from a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past year. More comprehensive stats show that “1 in 3 adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner.”
These statistics mean that dating violence is a serious issue. Once teens get to college, the risk of dating violence increases.
Teen Dating Violence Risk Increases in College
In his book, Battles of the Sexes, Dr. Joe Malone provides startling statistics about violence on college campuses exacerbated by alcohol and hookup culture. He also explains this has a lot to do with the difference in perception of sexual aggression between men and women, where men find it appealing and women do not. Thus, in a very simplistic way of looking at things, young men walk around believing women want to be overpowered while women fear it. This attitude is further promoted in pop culture and the pornography industry.
On college campuses, alcohol plays a large role in reducing women’s inhibitions and executive functioning skills. With a higher tolerance for risk and lowered rational decision making, college women who drink alcohol are more likely to engage in behaviors that increase their risk of experiencing sexual violence. Before anyone interprets these statements as “victim-blaming,” read Dr. Malone’s book about biological differences between men and women during young adulthood. Hormones are stronger than social attitudes. After reading his book, then think about personal safety and the conditions that make anyone vulnerable to attack.
Even without the influence of alcohol, almost half of college women report some form of abusive behavior from a dating partner, while a third gives a dating partner access to computer passwords and other online access which ends up being used against them.
Not Just Physical
Abuse and dating violence is not just physical. In an article on Christianity Today, Sabrina Hardy shares her story of how the emotional abuse from a boyfriend when she was young affected her perception of herself and others. Emotional abuse includes things like controlling someone else, manipulating someone else, using someone’s feelings to get what you want, using someone’s insecurities for personal gain, bullying, namecalling, and criticism. When someone oversteps boundaries or requires more of a dating partner than one is comfortable with, that can lead to emotional abuse.
Technology Can Make Things Worse
Social media and relationships that start online can be a dangerous manipulating tool. One of our Counter Culture Mom teens shared her story about meeting a boy through gaming online.
“I had a game where I could talk to people and I used that to make friends. In the game, the boys would say very inappropriate things about me and other girls on the game and if I’m honest, I did some of it too. In my mind, it was ok because I was making friends. While I thought these people were nice, they were only nice to me because I was a girl. The bad thing was I liked the attention. Once I stayed up all night just to play with them and one of the boys asked me to be his girlfriend. I said no at first. He talked to me for over an hour and he said he would be the best boyfriend I have ever had. I believed him so I gave in and said yes I would be his girlfriend. He treated me horrible and I thought I deserved it.”
She continued to describe how this boy made her feel bad about herself and pulled her away from God. She never met this boy in person. It may have been someone her age, it may have been an adult man grooming her. The point is, teens who are lonely and seeking attention or validation are more likely to engage in online-only relationships where they are more susceptible to manipulation, bullying, and emotional abuse.
Dating violence can happen to boys as well as girls, especially in the realm of emotional abuse and manipulation. Think, for example, of the insecure teenage boy who buys his girlfriend anything she wants because she pays attention to him. That is emotional abuse.
- Teens learn about relationships from adults. Therefore, model healthy relationships by showing respect for each other. Even while arguing or disagreeing, demonstrate love and respect for your spouse.
- Work with your teen on improving their self-esteem and self-concept. Teach them not to define themselves with a relationship. They are children of God and deserve the kind of forever love that God has in store for them.
- Talk with your teens about relationships.
- Set rules and age-appropriate guidelines for dating including at what age you will allow them to date, under what circumstances, and the need for sexual purity.
- Teach young people healthy relationships and boundaries. Dr. Henry Could and Dr. John Townsend have tremendous Christian resources available in their book Boundaries in Dating and on their website.
As parents and mentors, we have a responsibility to our teens and young adults. Help them learn healthy relationship habits. Teach them about the dangers of teen dating violence. This includes the obvious forms of sexual violence as well as the subtle emotional manipulations that negatively impact their lives.