Everyone deserves a healthy, happy relationship: celebrating Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Every year during the month of February, victim service providers and community advocates work together to spread awareness for teen dating violence. According to loveisrespect.org, 1 in 3 teens in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from an intimate partner before they become adults. When college age students are examined, “nearly half (43%) of those who identify as college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors.”

As technology changes and advances, digital abuse becomes more prevalent. Love Is Respect defines digital abuse as “the use of technologies like texting and social media to bully, harass, stalk, or intimate a partner” (2021). With the COVID-19 health pandemic, teens are more at risk for digital abuse as they are isolated from in-person interaction with friends and family and most of our lives take place online.

Waypoint believes that education and access to resources is key to preventing abuse and unhealthy relationships, which is why we focus on raising awareness during National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. If we can educate the community about the signs of dating violence and available resources for support, we can empower those experiencing dating violence to reach out for help and know that they are not alone. We can also encourage everyone to believe that they deserve a healthy, happy relationship.

What is a healthy relationship?

While every relationship is unique, there are key elements that should be present in a healthy relationship, including: respect, equality, honesty, trust, communication, boundaries, and consent (Love Is Respect, 2021).

What is teen dating violence?

Teen dating violence is a pattern of tactics used to create and maintain power and control over a dating partner. Waypoint has identified common tactics called the 10 Red Flags, or 10 signs to look for if you suspect you or someone you know is experiencing an unhealthy relationship.

Red Flag #1—Checking your phone or email without permission

While being open with your partner is an important part of any relationship, it is also important to have respect for each other’s privacy and personal space. If your partner checks your phone, email, social media, or any other personal items without your permission, it could be a red flag indicating unhealthy behaviors within your relationship.

Red Flag #2—Constant putdowns

Dating violence is not just physical, but can also be emotional or psychological. If your partner calls you names or makes you feel less than, this may be a sign of dating abuse.

Red Flag #3—Extreme jealousy or insecurity

Trust and security are two important factors in a healthy relationship. While everyone may get jealous from time to time, it is important to be able to communicate these feelings with your partner. If your relationship is experiencing extreme jealousy or insecurity, it could be on the path to other unhealthy behaviors.

Red Flag #4—Explosive temper

It’s natural to experience strong emotions, such as anger or frustration, in our everyday lives. If these emotions are not dealt with properly, however, they can increase in intensity. When high intensity emotions are the norm, relationships can be negatively affected and even become unsafe. It is important to express your emotions in a healthy manner and work with your partner to find a solution to whatever issue you are dealing with at the time.

Red Flag #5—Isolation from friends and family

Spending time with your partner is special, but you should also have space to make time for friends and family. If you are being kept away from other important people in your life, it may be time to reach out for help.

Red Flag #6—Making false accusations

When there is a problem in your relationship, it is important to listen to your partner, share your opinion, and work together to find a solution. However, if these problems become one sided, you start to feel manipulated, or you begin to feel guilty about things you have not done, this may be a sign of an unhealthy relationship.

Red Flag #7—Fear for one’s safety

Feeling safe with your significant other is a sign of a healthy relationship. If you ever feel unsafe or fear for the safety of those around you, please reach out for help immediately and call 9-1-1.

Red Flag #8—Intimidation

Intimidation and fear are often used as a tactic to keep someone in a relationship. If you are attempting to end a relationship and are looking for support, Waypoint advocates are here to help.

Red Flag #9—Treated like property

Human beings are not property and are not items to be claimed or owned. If you feel like your independence is being questioned, this may be another red flag.

Red Flag #10—Lack of decision-making abilities

Healthy relationships include making decisions together, and you should have an equal say in any decisions that affect your relationship. No one deserves to be controlled.

What resources are available?

Organizations like Waypoint offer several resources to individuals who may be experiencing an unhealthy relationship:

·       24/7 Resource & Support Line (1.800.208.0388 or 319.363.2093)

·       Individual counseling

·       Support groups

·       Safety planning

·       Fleeing assistance

·       Medical advocacy

·       Legal advocacy

National Resources are also available, including:

·       Love is Respect: https://www.loveisrespect.org/

·       Break the Cycle: https://www.breakthecycle.org/

·       National Network to End Domestic Violence: https://nnedv.org/

·       Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network: https://www.rainn.org/

·       National Runaway Safeline: https://www.1800runaway.org/

·       The Trevor Project: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

·       Strong Hearts Native Helpline: http://www.strongheartshelpline.org/

·       Crisis Text Line – text HOME to 741741

For more information on available resources and teen dating violence, visit our Domestic Violence Victim Services page today.

How you can make a difference?

1.     Learn about healthy relationships and the signs of an unhealthy relationship

2.     Learn about available resources available in case you or someone you know needs support

3.     Share information from Waypoint and other advocacy organizations on social media – use the hashtags #TDVAM21 and #KnowYourWorth

4.     Wear Orange for Love on February 9 to raise awareness for teen dating violence

5.     Start a conversation about healthy relationships

6.     Reach out to friends if you notice anything that concerns you – listen and provide non-judgmental support

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