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National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

Help Break the Cycle

By District Attorney Shannon Wallace

For many years, the District Attorney’s Office has delivered presentations on dating violence to area high schools. These talks typically coincide with National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

Awareness is key to tackling this problem and helping victims. Through these presentations, we share important information with young people, including how to recognize signs of abuse in their own relationships as well as others. We also let them know where they can turn for help.

Since we are unable to visit schools this year, this column summarizes key points we would normally share in person.

What Is Teen Dating Violence?

This form of intimate partner violence affects young people in close, dating relationships. The victim suffers repeated abuse in the form of acts that are physical, verbal, emotional, technology-related, sexual, or a combination.

Dating violence may include belittling, threats, isolation from friends and family, jealousy, excessive texting, forcing the other partner to engage in sexual activities, and physical abuse such as shoving, hitting, strangulation, and, in some cases, murder.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 1.5 million U.S. high school students experienced physical violence from a dating partner in the prior year.1 However, only about 10% of adolescents report acts of violence committed by an intimate partner.2

As much as adolescents use cell phones, it’s not surprising that texting is used as a form of abuse. The perpetrator may send excessive texts, demanding to know exactly what the victim is doing and with whom. When those texts are sent all night long, the victim suffers sleep deprivation, which is another form of abuse. Sometimes, the abuser even demands explicit photos.

Dating violence tends to occur in a cyclical pattern that escalates and de-escalates, with peaceful periods following abuse.

What Are the Signs?

Signs of abuse are not always easy to spot. A common indication of a problem is a teen withdrawing from friends and family. Antisocial behavior often happens because victims feel afraid, sad, helpless, humiliated, isolated, and unable to talk to friends or family.

A teen experiencing dating violence may become depressed, engage in unhealthy behaviors like using drugs and alcohol, and think about suicide. Trust your intuition. If something doesn’t seem right, it is time to have a heart-to-heart discussion with your child.

An abusive relationship during adolescence can lead to a greater likelihood for substance abuse, eating disorders, and risky sexual behavior. Youths who are victimized can end up becoming victims or perpetrators of adult intimate partner violence.

How You Can Help Break the Cycle

Talk to teens about healthy relationships. Remind them that controlling and violent behaviors are not acceptable. And let them know that help is available.

Teens experiencing dating violence should reach out to a parent, teacher, or other trusted adult. They can also call the Cherokee Family Violence Center or 911
in case of emergency.

Local Resources
Cherokee Family Violence Center 770-479-1703
Call 911 if in danger

1 “Physical Dating Violence Among High School Students.”
2 “Dating Violence Prevention.”