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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Teen Dating Violence

This week I was supposed to cover how to have as healthy a divorce as possible, and I promise I will do that next week. As so often happens in my life, I find more pressing matters sometimes preempt my best-laid plans. Such is the case this week.
My friend Camie Wereley, from the CDA Women’s Center, and I were talking this week about the teen dating violence awareness workshop I attended a couple of weeks ago, and she informed me this first week of February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Week. Because I have four teenagers, two boys and two girls, I get to enjoy four helpings of the angst every parent is served when their teenager begins to date, and so this topic holds particular concern for me. It should hold general concern for all of us as we guide our teenagers through learning to be in relationship with each other. For those of you from the “Show Me” state, and anyone else that is skeptical this is a problem. . .
The following statistics are from the Bureau of Justice in May 2000:
Thirty to fifty percent of high school students report having already experienced some form of teen dating violence.
One in three either have been or will be in an abusive relationship.
Young women (16-24) experience the highest per capita rates of intimate violence- almost 20/1000
38% of “date rape” victims are 14-17 years old and 68% of women raped knew their rapist as a boyfriend, friend or acquaintance.
While boys can be abuse victims, usually it is not with physical violence but controlling behavior such as constant texting or calling and threatening to harm herself if he ends the relationship.
There are other statistics showing how wide spread the problem is, my hope is you are asking yourself what you can do about it. If you are a teen and experiencing dating violence then tell someone you trust and get help. Telling your parents is a great place to start; they want to help. However, if you can’t tell them, call Project Safe Place 208-676- 0772 and the Women’s Center has a 24 hr Crisis Intervention Line 208-664-9303.
If you are a parent, modeling good relationship behaviors is the place to start. Dad, your kids see how you treat your wife, or partner, in the case of divorced homes. Girls from a home of abuse are more likely to have every social problem we know of from teenage pregnancy, to drug abuse, to being abused themselves. Mom if you are being abused and staying with the relationship, your daughters are far more likely to be abused and your sons far more likely to become abusers. Parents, communicate with your kids LONG before they begin dating. Let your daughter know what behavior she should expect from a date and make sure your son knows the behavior you expect from him.
Learn to recognize the signs of abuse and do not be afraid to get involved in your child’s dating habits. They are learning how to be in relationship and need to be coached; either you will coach them or most likely the friend you like the least is going to. You should meet and get to know every date. If you see a boyfriend being controlling, physical signs of injury, failing grades or truancy, use of drugs or alcohol, emotional outbursts or changes in mood or personality then get involved. Let them know you’re there to help and support; use active listening skills and try very hard not to be judgmental.
Parents and teens alike, this can be a special time in both of your lives with a little common sense, open and honest communication, adherence to agreed upon family rules, and love and respect.

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