October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), Facts about dating abuse and teen violence, domestic violence is most common among women between the ages of 18-24. Other alarming facts include:
- Nearly 20.9% of female high school students and 13.4% of male high school students report being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.
- 57% of teens know someone who has been physically, sexually or verbally abusive in a dating relationship.
- Only 33% of teenage dating abuse victims ever told anyone about it.
- 50% of youth reporting dating violence and rape also reported attempting suicide.
As a parent or foster parent, you can make a difference. Know the signs of domestic violence. Help your child set boundaries with their dating partner. If you suspect they are in a violent relationship, here are some tips to share.
How to spot signs of unhealthy relationships
Are you concerned that your child is in an unhealthy relationship? Domestic violence takes on many forms, including physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, online and economic abuse. The abuse can include controlling behavior, isolating the victim from family or friends, stalking, intimidation, physical violence and sexual coercion. As parents, here are some warning signs of abuse you may notice in your children:
- Jealous or abusive dating partner
- Unexplained marks or bruises
- Excessive email or texting
- Sudden changes in dress or behavior
- Pulling away from friends and family
- Sudden lack of interest or participation in extracurricular activities
Things you can do as a parent or foster parent
If you suspect your teen is in a damaging or unhealthy relationship, it’s important to think about what you want to say before simply reacting. You want your child to open up to you, not shut down or defend their abuser. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you talk to your teen:
- Listen and be supportive. Try not to accuse or place blame, simply listen and be understanding.
- Show your concern that people do not deserve to be treated poorly.
- Try to focus on the negative behaviors, rather than the person performing the behaviors.
- Help your child understand how the behaviors are hurting them.
- Make a plan together.
Helping your child get out of an unhealthy relationship
Seek help by contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or by initiating a safe and private online chat.
Create a safety plan.The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers tips to create safety plans for a variety of situations, including safety planning while living with an abusive partner, with children, with pets, during pregnancy and emotional safety planning
Ensure online safety. Use safe computers at a library where internet searches can’t be easily tracked. Help your teen open an email account that their partner does not know about or cannot access for safety planning. If you worry that their cell phone is monitored by the abuser, purchase a pay as you go phone for emergencies. Remind your teen to protect their social media passwords. Once information is shared, it’s no longer under their control.
Remind your child that they are loved and worthy of healthy relationships
If your child is or has been in an abusive relationship, your support is crucial to help them rebuild their life and self-confidence. Counseling can be extremely beneficial to help them identify healthy coping strategies and help them recover from the trauma.
If you are a victim of abuse or know someone who is in an abusive situation, free and confidential phone, live chat and texting services are available 24/7/365.
- Chat at www.loveisrespect.org
- Text LOVEIS to 22522
- Call 1-866-331-9474
- Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or by online chat
Helping parents provide guidance for determining boundaries for their teens in dating relationships is part of the advocacy efforts of organizations like SAFY, a provider of foster care and other services that help 15,000 people each year.