Prevalence and warning signs
In February 2009, teen pop star Chris Brown allegedly beat and verbally threatened his celebrity girlfriend Rihanna inside his car before leaving her and driving off. Rihanna is 21 years old; Brown is 19.
While stories such as this don’t usually make national headlines, Brown and Rihanna have spotlighted a very real issue amongst teens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teen dating abuse affects 1 out of every 11 high school students.
Teen dating violence, as defined by the Crime and Violence Prevention Center (CVPC), includes hitting, yelling, threatening, name calling, or any other form of verbal, sexual, emotional, or physical abuse. It affects every race, gender, religion, and socioeconomic class, and occurs in both heterosexual and gay relationships. Although both men and women can be the abuser, the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center (NYVPRC) states that females ages 16-24are almost three times more likely to be the victim of partner abuse than the national average of any other age group.
Teens who are involved in an abusive relationship usually do not tell loved ones of their situation, so it is important for parents, guardians, and close friends to recognize any warning signs. Alarmingly, a recent survey conducted by the NYVPRC found that 81% of parents either believe teen dating violence is not an issue, or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue. To help raise awareness, NYVPRC provides some signs to be conscious of, including:
- Unexplained bruising, scratches, or injuries
- Signs a teen is afraid of his/her boyfriend or girlfriend
- Controlling behavior exhibited by a boyfriend or girlfriend, and acting jealous and/or possessive
- Critical and insulting behavior by a teen’s boyfriend or girlfriend
- Abusive behavior by a boyfriend or girlfriend toward other people or things
- The need for the teen to apologize for his/her boyfriend or girlfriend’s behavior
- Loss of interest in school, activities, or hobbies
- Sudden appearance and behavior changes
- Mood changes such as acting depressed, secretive, anxious, or acting out
- Starting to use drugs and/or alcohol
Although some of these signs are part of normal teen behavior, there is a cause for concern if these changes happen suddenly or without explanation.