Let’s talk about: Teen dating violence

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February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, making it the perfect time to talk about our roles in preventing dating violence in our community. Although parents have a tendency to believe that teen dating violence is unlikely to affect their own children, the research is clear that no teen is exempt from the possibility of becoming involved in an unhealthy or unsafe teen dating relationship. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three teens has experienced some form of dating violence which suggests that this is a pervasive issue in our community that requires our attention. Teen dating violence can be difficult to identify because it takes many different forms. Dating violence can be physical or emotional and take place in person or online. Physical abuse may be easier to spot, but emotional abuse such as name calling, controlling behavior, social isolation, or sexual exploitation can be just as damaging for victims who experience these forms of abuse. If teens are not educated on the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships, they may not know that what they are experiencing is teen dating violence. Parents are one of the most influential sources of education, so it is critical that parents talk to their preteens and teens about healthy and unhealthy relationships.

To prevent teen dating violence in our community, we suggest that parents have regular and open conversations with their preteens and teens. Starting conversations with your teen or preteen early sends the message that sharing information is important and creates a habit of having conversations. It is critical that parents begin discussing healthy relationships early so that preteens and teens feel comfortable approaching them as a resource if they know someone who is experiencing teen dating violence. Indeed, you can imagine that it would be quite difficult for a teen to approach their parent because they are experiencing dating violence if their parent isn’t even aware that he or she is dating in the first place. Your role in teen dating violence prevention is simple. Start a conversation with your teen today. For some tips on how to have this conversation, contact the Integrated Resilience Office at 86AW.CVB.IRO@us.af.mil for a copy of our conversation guide for parents.