What we all need to know about teen dating violence

Monday, February 1, 2016

Teen dating violence can happen face-to-face, via text messaging, or even online.

Teen dating violence is any physical, psychological/emotional, or sexual violence that occurs in a dating relationship. It can happen face-to-face, via text messaging, or even online.

M. Susan Scanlon, M.D., a gynecologist on the medical staff at NCH, has treated thousands of young women and is passionate about reducing violence against women. Read her advice about how to help young women stay on track to be healthy, happy, and reach their full potential.

Tell us about the different types of teen dating violence.

Physical violence typically includes pinching, hitting, shoving, slapping, punching or kicking.

Psychological or emotional violence means threatening someone or harming someone’s self-worth – such as name-calling, shaming, bullying, embarrassing on purpose, or keeping him/her away from friends and family.

Stalking is a pattern of harassing or threatening actions that are unwanted and cause fear in the victim.

Sexual violence means forcing sexual activity without consent. It also includes threatening to spread negative rumors if the victim refuses to have sex.

What should teenagers know about dating violence?

  • Dating violence is wrong in any form, and it often starts small and progresses. Teasing, excessive texting, or someone trying to control you may seem innocent at first, but may progress to abuse and violence.
  • If someone is treating you poorly, that person is not worthy of your friendship. Move on and find a healthy relationship.
  • If someone is harming you emotionally or physically, it is not your fault. No one has the right to hurt you. Tell someone you trust so you can get help.

How common is dating violence?

Dating violence is widespread and often begins in the teenage years. A 2013 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that 10 percent of high school students have experienced teen dating physical violence. An additional 10 percent of students reported a sexual assault from a dating partner during the year prior to the survey. In addition, 23 percent of females and 14 percent of males who ever experienced rape, physical violence or stalking as an adult had first experienced dating violence between ages 11 and 17.

What should a young woman do if she is in an unsafe situation?

First, trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, get out and go someplace safe. Then, tell a trusted adult so they can help you take steps to prevent it from happening again.

How can a young woman protect herself from teen dating violence?

  • Select relationships that are based on mutual respect and that make you feel comfortable.
  • Avoid relationships with partners that exhibit high-risk behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use and early sexual activity.
  • Prepare something to say if you need to get out of a bad situation. It should be a sentence that you have memorized and feel comfortable saying. Practice your “go-to” response so you can say it with confidence when the time comes.
  • Go on dates with a group of friends to a public place. Avoid going alone to your date’s house, especially if the parents aren’t home, because the majority of sexual assaults occur in a place of residence.
  • Load a taxi app onto your phone and have money in your pocket so that you can always get home if something goes wrong on your date.
  • Take a self-defense class – this makes protecting yourself an instinct rather than a reaction.
  • View the CDC video, Break the Silence: Stop the Violence.

Dr. Scanlon frequently presents community lectures and workshops, including “Respect Yourself, Protect Yourself: A College Prep Workshop.” She is also the author of The Gyne’s Guide for College Women: How to Have a Healthy, Safe, and Happy Four Years. Visit her website, www.thegynesguide.com, for more information.

  • M. Susan Scanlon


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