The Realities of Teen Dating Violence and Ways to Move on

thTeen dating violence is a reality that many people fail to realize and even fewer talk about. Many parents of teens believe teen dating violence is not even an issue. However, approximately 1 in 5 female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.  I recently discovered that a teen’s confusion about the law and their desire for confidentiality are two of the most significant barriers stopping young victims of abuse from seeking help.

Lastly, many teens hold on to the delusion that their partner will change or that the violence was just a one-time thing. Once it does happen again – and it will – they make excuses or rationalize why it happened again. Trust me, if it happens once, it will happen again. Don’t let it. GET OUT IMMEDIATELY!

Take Action

Teens, be strong and break up with the person. Here’s how: Do it in person (if it’s safe), or do it over the phone. Just do it! Don’t listen to his (or her) apologies or excuses, and cut off communication with him. I understand this is easier said than done, especially if you go to school with him, you work with him, or you live near him. Keep your friends close during this time and lean on your parents. Teach yourself to be strong. Build a powerful shield around you, face your challenges, and speak up. Call a hotline if you feel more comfortable. Protect yourself. Do it for yourself, for your little sister, for the girl still in an abusive relationship. Let them draw strength from your resilience. Speaking out against the abuser shows huge strength and resiliency.

Dating violence is no joke. Tell someone immediately or ask their opinion if you feel unsure about something that was said or done to you. If you don’t feel safe telling a family member or a friend, call a website or a hotline. The call is anonymous and the people on the other end are trained professionals. They will not judge you, but they can talk you through the experience, help you decide how to move forward, and give you ways for ending the relationship safely.

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Support 

A great solution for someone who has suffered a traumatic experience is twofold. One, join a support group with other teen girls who’ve gone through similar situations. This will help you know you’re not alone, and surrounding yourself with others who can relate to the experience mentally and emotionally helps a lot. Ask a therapist about an appropriate group to join or start by calling your health plan. Chances are it has services and groups available to help you heal.

Two, get physical, but in a “mindful” way. What does that look like? It looks like yoga, meditation, tai chi, or dance. It grounds you and helps you reflect on yourself in a deeper way. I would encourage you to take a class at a gym, the YMCA, or another community recreational center. If you’re nervous about trying something like this because it’s new, bring a friend along. You can both go through the class and learning process together. Although you have a friend for support, you will still build independence and self-confidence. You will start to release the questions you had about why you stayed or why you second-guessed yourself. There’s something about the physical movement in these activities that helps victims reclaim their spirit and embrace themselves in a more loving way.

Remember, removing yourself from a violent relationship is the ultimate way to respect and love yourself.  Always put yourself first and leave. Remove from your mind any statements the abuser uses to make you stay such as, “It’ll never happen again,” “I love you,” or, “If you take me back it will be different.”  Sometimes it helps to write these statements down, let your anger build, and then rip them up or burn them one by one (but please do not set any illegal or unsupervised fires!). Throw the remains into your fireplace or a bonfire. As you do so, make a promise to always put yourself first.

Why do we Blame the Victim?

self-esteemand teen bullyingWhy do we blame the victim?

Every two and a half minutes a woman is sexually assaulted, and the risk is four times greater for, teens between the ages of 15-19.  This is a very scary statistic and means every teenage girl is susceptible to sexual assault.  The definition of sexual assault is so broad that it can be misunderstood and leave victims feeling confused, guilty and ashamed.  What is even sadder, 70% of the victims know their assailant.  But what makes sexual assault even more destructive is the high percentage of victims that are blamed for their attack.  Sadly, family members and friends are often first to blame the victim.  They are easily persuaded by doubt, or be convinced the victim asked for the assault based on their knowledge of the victim. This is called victim blaming.

Victim blaming in relation to sexual assault happens quite often.  An assault is committed and the victim is blamed for the crimes.  Sometimes the victim blaming rears its head in very subtle ways.  Friends, neighbors and the local community may respond to the victim by either ignoring them, and treating them like an outcast, or verbally attacking the victim.  Sadly, victim blaming doesn’t stop there, professional workers that should be on the side of the victim, including doctors, lawyers and the media, have doubts about the victim’s story or believe that the attack is somehow justifiable.  People are often convinced that the victim deserved the treatment or asked for it.  This kind of treatment is wrong and it can be very hurtful and leave the victim feeling alone and depressed.

The reality of victim blaming for sexual assault plagues thousands of women but is most common among teens.  Teens are very fragile and impressionable and can easily be influenced, and convinced that maybe they are the ones to be blamed for their assault or abuse.  After all, if everyone believes it is their fault, then maybe they did ask for the attack or even deserved the attack.  This is victim blaming at its worst because now not only does everyone believe it is the victims fault, but the victim believes it too, and the saddest part of the crime is the assailant or criminal is never punished and get away with what they have done.

Women and teens of sexual assault don’t just get better, especially when victim blaming is involved.  There is a lot of mental and emotional damage that has been done and because many have blamed the victim, and even the victim has blamed herself, she never gets the help that is needed.  A lot of teens end up carrying the incident all of their life and for many teens, this can have negative effects on their future. It can lead to depression, low self-esteem and self inflicted violence such as cutting. Many victims cannot have functional or healthy relationships with people especially men.  Others may be so damaged by the assault and being blamed that they just don’t recover and struggle to live a normal and healthy life.

The bottom line is, nobody deserves to be sexually abused or assaulted, and the brutal attack of women and teens is never asked for or deserved.  The victim should never be persuaded or convinced that their behaviors asked for the assault or they deserved it.  It doesn’t matter the circumstance, an unwanted or unwelcome sexual assault is a crime that has the fingerprints of the assailant all over it and never the victim.

Victims need to get through their assault by getting help and there is help available that can restore them mentally and emotionally and help them to move forward.  Here’s is a great website  and a great resource for parents and teens to learn more.