Teen dating violence: raising awareness
Yokota Air Base, Japan -- No parent wants to see their child get hurt. As children grow up to become teenagers and young adults, they are exposed to new life experiences and situations, to include dating. This confusing time of emotional upheaval can potentially lead to unhealthy relationships and even abuse.
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, brining attention to the potential impact of dating violence on children's health and development. The goal is to empower teens to develop healthy relationships throughout their lives and to engage in activities that prevent and respond to teen dating violence.
“There is no substitute for parents maintaining a positive relationship in their child’s life and having good communication,” said Thomas Eaton, 374th Force Support Squadron Family Advocacy outreach manager. “Kids naturally have certain things they want to keep private, but we have to work as parents to open up the issues, which can be about sex, dating, puberty, alcohol, drugs and peer pressure. All of those things are what children see in their world and have to make decisions about.”
Teen dating violence, also called adolescent relationship abuse, includes physical, psychological or sexual abuse; harassment; or stalking of any person ages 12 to 18 in the context of a past or present romantic or platonic relationship.
Teens are at high risk for dating violence as they are beginning to explore dating and intimacy.
According to Eaton, one out of four women and one out of six men have stated that they have been the victim of sexual, emotional or physical violence/aggression in their lives and for a majority of them it started in their teen years.
“Teen dating violence is about power and control, with one person trying to take control over another,” Eaton said. “Adolescents are establishing their boundaries, experimenting and making mistakes during their teen years. It’s important for them to establish clear boundaries and know that if they feel uncomfortable in a dating environment, they have every right to remove themselves and stop it.”
Families can influence the development of healthy dating relationships through modeling, reinforcement, and communication about the importance of healthy relationships.
“It’s hard to not be invasive in your child’s life because kids are going to want to be independent,” Eaton said. “Parents should help their children have a balanced dating life, and ensure there is good communication between themselves and their kids. Knowing their children’s eating, sleeping, school and social habits are also important because if a parent notices any changes in habits, it would be an important time to intervene and provide help.”
Members of the Family Advocacy Office will be speaking with students at the Yokota middle and high schools about teen dating violence and having healthy relationships throughout February. The students will learn about safe dating practices, being able to say ‘no’ and being able to identify what is over the line.
“Teens having a healthy relationship will pay off for the rest of their life because they establish a good sense of what is okay and what is not,” Eaton said. “It’s critical for them to start off well in the dating world. If teens establish a smart dating mindset early, they can create a good reputation for themselves that should carry into their adult life.”
If someone becomes involved in dating violence the Family Advocacy office provides help to those involved and can be reached at 315-225-3644. Teens can also speak with counselors or military and family life consultants at the base schools to receive advice and help on safe dating.