Dating — it is fun and exciting. It can also be loving and fulfilling if one finds the right person to be with. What’s not fun or loving is arguing or fighting that escalates into dating violence, especially among teens.
52nd Medical Operations Squadron Family Advocacy Intervention specialists visited Bitburg Middle High School Feb. 11, to speak with students about the crucial topic of teen dating violence.
“[After we] had a proclamation signed by the school’s principal designating February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, we met with over 200 students and talked about what teen dating violence is and what do if you are a victim of it, or know someone who is,” said Brittny Gainey, 52nd MDOS Family Advocacy intervention specialist.
Gainey said that teen dating violence is described as physical, sexual, psychological or emotional violence within a dating relationship to include stalking.
When we spoke with the students, we also showed them a video with various scenarios. The video, called “Choose Respect” had a lot of scenarios related to teen dating violence such as he only hit me one time; or I can only wear certain outfits or these are the only people I can hang out with; or checking cell phones for text messages, things like that.
There are several signs of dating abuse: mood swings, possessiveness, extreme jealousy or insecurity, explosive temper, and isolating a person from family or friends.
“That just reinforces the fact that it’s important to speak with a large group of teenagers because you never know who can identify that friend in a situation like that,” Gainey said.
With teen dating violence on the rise, Gainey said technology and social media have made it easier to commit abuse acts.
“New social media platforms such as ‘Snap Chat,’ allow people take [racy] pictures and send them to their boyfriends or girlfriends thinking that it only lasts a few seconds, but it doesn’t,” said Gainey. “The person it was sent to can take a screen shot of that message and store it for later use.”
Unfortunately, if that person is faced with a breakup, he or she can send that picture to everyone, which is considered abuse, Gainey said.
According to The Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, a new study examining teen dating abuse found that of the 5,647 middle and high school students in a relationship, 26 percent of them reported being digitally abused (i.e., social media, email and text messages) by their partners.
Additionally, 3 percent of teenagers in an abusive relationship will tell an authority figure, 6 percent will tell a family member and 75 percent will tell a friend.
Janine Zweig, an Urban Institute researcher and one of the co-founders of the study stated, “New technologies — social networking sites, texts, cell phones and emails — have given abusers another way to control, degrade and frighten their partners.”
We know this type of behavior occurs within teenage relationships. We may not see people face-to-face, but we know that it does happen.
Teens who find themselves in a situation like this and are trying to find a way out, should talk to a teacher or counselor or responsible adult, Gaines stated. Choose a responsible adult they feel safe with. Hopefully, they’ll guide you through the process.
“Abuse doesn’t have a gender, title or socio-economic status … no one deserves to be abused. Everyone deserves to feel safe,” Gainey said.