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Teen Dating Abuse: Young Love Shouldn't Turn Violent

Victims of teen dating violence can get help by texting 22522. (LunarSeaArt/Pixabay)
Victims of teen dating violence can get help by texting 22522. (LunarSeaArt/Pixabay)
February 5, 2019

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Young love often eventually fades, but for some teens, it can turn violent. An estimated 1.5 million high school students in the U.S. suffer physical abuse from a dating partner each year.

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and multiple groups are taking the opportunity to educate teens about healthy relationships. Sean Black, assistant director at the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said most abusive relationships involve a partner who wants to control the other.

"If a partner gets mad because someone didn't answer their text in five minutes or less and throw a fit; if one partner takes away the other person's phone, not allowing you to talk to someone else in the hallway or not allowing you to sit at a certain table in the lunchroom, those are signs of an unhealthy relationship,” Black said.

While physical attraction may ignite a relationship, Black explained respect, trust, consent and open communication are all crucial to keeping it healthy. Teen dating violence can take the forms of physical, sexual, verbal and emotional abuse. And it can lead to depression, alcohol or drug abuse, negative body image and poor school performance.

Black said it can be difficult for a victim to open up about abuse, and encouraged parents to be as supportive as possible and listen to their child. He added it's also important for other teens to be active bystanders when they see abusive behavior.

"If a partner says something inappropriate to another partner, just say, 'Hey, that's not how you should act.' Make sure that everyone's aware that you saw that that is how that person is treating someone and that you don't approve of it,” he said. “That often will go a long way and help give the victim strength to step up and know that you're an ally."

There are also many organizations that victims of teen dating violence can contact for support, says Heather Frederick with the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

"Because we know how difficult it can be to have those conversations with parents or teachers, or other people - even just to have those conversations face to face,” Frederick said. “The option to do it over the phone, or through chat or text, is a lot more comfortable for younger people."

Help is available online at loveisrespect.org or by texting 22522. The hotline number is 866-331-9474.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL