Families should talk about dating violence

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February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.This is a great opportunity to talk with the teens in your life about healthy relationships and red flags for abusive relationships.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, teen dating violence is a public health threat. Almost 10 percent of United States high school students report they were purposefully physically hurt by a dating partner in the past year. Eleven percent report sexual assault by a dating partner in the past year.

Victims of dating violence in high school are at a higher risk of being adult victims of intimate partner rape, domestic violence and stalking. Victims of teen dating violence are also more likely to experience depression or anxiety; use tobacco, drugs and alcohol; and think about suicide.

Teen dating abuse is a pattern of controlling behavior by one teen towards another in a dating relationship:

• Physical abuse: hitting, shoving, punching, pinching, slapping, kicking, strangling, grabbing.

• Emotional or psychological abuse: threats, name-calling, spreading rumors, intimidating, shaming, bullying, embarrassing on purpose or keeping the victim away from friends or family.

• Sexual abuse: unwanted touching or kissing, forced sexual acts.

• Stalking: a pattern of harassing or threatening tactics that are unwanted and cause fear.

The abuse can be by a current or former dating partner and be in person or through texting, Snapchat, or other social media.

Finding out whether your teen is a victim or perpetrator can be difficult. Teens may be afraid or ashamed to reveal dating violence or may not know who to turn to for help.

Some teens may see abusive behavior as normal or even desirable. Parents should look for signs their child may be an abuser or is being abused.

Talk often about how to have healthy relationships and what to look for in a partner before they start dating. Teach that in healthy relationships, both partners want the other to succeed and are happy and proud of the other's achievements.

Healthy partners are not resentful of their partner's other interests, friends, or accomplishments. They know both people need time alone or to be with friends and family.

Go over common signs of dating violence with your child, so they understand this behavior is not part of a healthy relationship:

• Checking cell phones, emails, or social networks without permission;

• Requiring constant check-ins;

• Pressuring to send explicit photos;

• Extreme jealousy or insecurity;

• Constant belittling or put-downs;

• Explosive temper;

• Isolation from family and friends;

• False accusations;

• Physically inflicting pain or hurt in any way;

• Possessiveness; and

• Repeatedly pressuring someone to have sex.

Some things to do to prevent teen dating violence:

• Be a role model. Treat your children and others with respect and kindness.

• Be clear that any form of violence - verbal, emotional, physical or sexual - is never acceptable.

• Let your teens know it is safe to talk to you about any concerns.

• Watch for signs a teen may be a victim of an abusive relationship: changes in behavior; falling grades; avoiding friends, family, usual activities; making excuses for their partner's behavior; and unexplained injuries.

• Watch for signs a teen may be abusive such as a violent temper, putting down their date, acting extremely jealous, preventing their partner from hanging out with friends and family, or frequently checking up to demand information about where their partner is and with whom.

If you want more information about talking to your teen, loveisrespect.org has good information or call CAV.

Malinda Williams is the executive director of Community Against Violence, Inc. (CAV) which offers FREE confidential support and assistance for adult and child survivors of sexual and domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking; community and school violence prevention programs; re-education BIP groups for domestic violence offenders; counseling; shelter; transitional housing; and community thrift store. To talk with someone or get information on services available, call CAV's 24-hour crisis line at (575) 758- 9888 and TaosCAV.org

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