Protect Your Teen: February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

February 13, 2017

As a parent, you would do anything to protect your child from violence but the reality is that teen dating violence impacts almost 1.5 million high school students, according to the CDC. Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, almost triple the national average. (Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice and Statistics) February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and it is an opportunity to reach out to teens to let them know that real love means respect.

The fear and physical trauma of dating violence can have both immediate and long term impacts on our teens’ success in school and chances of misusing substances. It can also lead to a future of instability and violence for any children they may have one day. This impacts all of us yet many think it could never happen to them.

Teen dating violence can be as visible as bruises or as subtle as name calling and controlling what a partner wears.  Teen dating violence doesn’t always start with physical violence. Warning signs that someone you care about might be in a potentially dangerous relationship are:
- Their partner is jealous, possessive or has an explosive temper.
- Their partner puts them down, calls them names or tells them what to do.
- Their partner texts or calls excessively or expects them to report their whereabouts or activities.
- You notice increased anxiety or depression and they become isolated or withdrawn.
- You notice unexplained marks or bruises.

As teens try to figure out the dating world, help them to become more confident by talking about boundaries and self-care. Skills like respecting differences, setting boundaries, working through conflict, and communicating with their partners will last a lifetime- much longer than any Valentine’s Day chocolate or flowers.

The support of friends and family members is critical to preventing potentially violent relationships from escalating into dangerous and even life threatening situations. If you suspect that your teen or someone you care about is in a dangerous relationship you can:
- Show your concern: let them know you care about their safety and that they deserve a respectful and healthy relationship.
- Listen and give support. Let them know you believe them and care about them.
- Educate yourself: Learn more about dating violence and local supports. The Buncombe County Family Justice Center is a great place for support locally. 
- Help them develop a safety plan and access resources.

If you or someone you know is in an unsafe relationship there is help – call the Buncombe County Family Justice Center at 250-6900 or find us on the web at www.buncombecounty.org/fjc.

teen-1.jpgJulie Klipp Nicholson is the Coordinator of the Buncombe County Family Justice Center, a safe place where victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse can access many different services in one location.  She holds a J.D. from the UNC School of Law and a Nonprofit Leadership Certificate from UNC School of Social Work. She is a member of the Harry C Martin Inn of Court and a recipient of the Gwyneth B Davis Public Service Award.

 

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